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Increasing the use of Reclaimed Asphalt in Italy towards a circular economy: A top-down approach
* 1 , 1 , 2 , 1 , 1
1  University of Palermo
Academic Editor: Goran M. Mladenović


It is essential for the use of Reclaimed Asphalt (RA) to be established as a standard practice since it has been proven that it can serve an end-of-waste product that complies with the principles of circular economy within both an open and closed loop approach and can provide environmental and economic benefits. The European average of RA reused in pavement construction is 60%, however, some nations greatly outperform this average, to understand why these nations outperform Italy, which reuses only 25% of available RA, it is necessary to understand the regulatory framework in each nation, promoting the use of RAs in pavement design. In the context of making recommendations to Italian regulatory bodies. Spain has a similar economic capacity and climatic conditions to Italy, but reuses 72.2% of RA. What causes the chasm between Spanish and Italian figures? In the authors’ opinion, Spain sees the use of RA in pavement management as a sustainable and cost-effective solution. Moreover, Spain was an early adopter of hot and warm mix asphalt recycling, since the 1980s. These facts combined with experience gained over the past three decades, have changed the Spanish lawmakers’ perspective, who understand that RA pavements are equal to conventional pavements. Additionally, research supports RA use and advocates higher RA% in pavements. Combining the use of rejuvenators, asphalt mixtures with a RA content of 40% allows the amount of virgin aggregates and the quantity of virgin binder to be reduced. Assuming that Spain is as receptive to this new research as it has been in the past, it is likely that their rate of reuse of RA will continue to increase. In Italy, there seems to be little push to increase the use of RA in road construction; the Italian association of pavement design and bitumen – SITEB, cites several obstacles; complex bureaucracy and the slow rate of change to regulations, non-uniform regulations which vary on a municipal level, and lastly a prejudice among engineers, road authorities, and governmental bodies, against the use of RA. Moreover, the Italian regulatory context allows for only 30%, 25%, and 20% of RA usage in base, binder, and surface courses. A fact that significantly limits and hinders the exploitation of RA as an End-of-Waste product. On the contrary, in Spain, although mixtures composed of 60-70% recycled materials can be produced, the most common practice is the production of asphalt mixtures with an RA content below 50%. Thus, it becomes evident that the increase of the allowed RA% in the recycling process of asphalt mixtures can significantly impact the recycling and sustainability implications of a country. It is disheartening to see that the improvement in Italy’s use of RA has been slow, therefore recommendations are needed for Italian regulatory bodies, in the hope that they could learn, not only from their most adept and advanced in terms of RA recycling European partners but also from those in a similar economic condition who understand that the use of RA is not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable.

Keywords: reclaimed asphalt; circular economy; sustainability; recycling; legislations