How mushrooms can transform our roofs

By Joanne Rodriguez, GreenStructure

Every day the news has stories on plastic pollution in our oceans, bag taxes or elimination of straws.  As our population has increased so has our consumption.  Because many of us recognize these as issues within our control we can make choices that start to impact the amount of waste we generate.  But what about our industry: roofing?  Should we be looking to ways to reduce the burden of our footprint?

Manufacturers have started to consider utilizing recycled materials or bio-based products within their materials, while others have worked to upgrade durability or develop products that can be restored multiple times to contribute to longevity.  Within the shingle market, there are some advances in recycling roofing tear-off and reusing within paving projects.  But as an industry we have yet to develop a means to divert the majority of our 60-100 million tons of annual tear off debris from landfill.

With municipalities looking hard at the need to close landfills, incenting recycling of debris, or increasing fees and taxes on hard to recycle products—like roofing—there is need to consider how to handle our roofing waste more sustainably.  My partner, Liz Hart Morris and I have set out to take this challenge on.  We’ve been focused on landfill diversion strategies within the roofing industry for over 6 years now.  We’ve got archived presentations to NRCA members (May 2016) as well as a feature article in “Professional Roofing” magazine by Liz (November 2017) taking this topic on.  And as this dialogue evolved for us, we realized that the solution set might be growing right under our feet.

We have been innovating a new process called Mycocycle, which is a patent-pending engineered ecosystem intended to bioremediate asphalt roofing waste along with other roofing products.  These are some unusual terms for many of us in the industry, but essentially we are developing a means to biologically break down roofing tear-off waste utilizing fungi (mycelium) and plant species.  The by-product should be two-fold: a clean biomass and mushrooms.  We believe that both by-products can re-enter the manufacturing stream to develop a new bio-based product within the roofing industry: from the roof to the roof.

Currently we are in the initial testing phase of bioremediating roofing products.  We are pursuing asphalt-based products first since there is established success of a similar process breaking down asphalt (see Liz’s article in November). But it has never been applied to roofing and we are excited to be pioneering this innovation along side mycologist Peter McCoy (Radical Mycology).  Everyday we are encouraged by the growth of the product and the break down of the roofing material.  There should be photos and updates on our websites as we advance through the weeks.  We will be able to hone in on how long it takes to break down the roofing products and the most efficient ecosystem to take on the task.

If you want to learn more about the process, you might visit the RT3 Tech Talk I just completed.

Joanne Rodriguez is a founder of GreenStructure. Follow her on Twitter @greengirlnow.