What is sustainability in single ply roofing?

Sustainability in single ply roofing products covers environmental, economic and social factors. As far as single ply roofing is concerned, the key environmental issues are:


Use of Oil – All single ply membranes are produced from oil, with the addition of a significant proportion (up to 60% by weight) of inorganic constituents, to improve stability, fire resistance, UV-resistance and to aid installation.

Use of Energy – The primary energy source in manufacture is electricity. Many European manufacturers now obtain electricity from renewable sources including hydro-electric generation.
Energy for extraction, processing and manufacture is included in Life Cycle Assessment.

Release of during service

Improved formulation has almost eliminated this feature. Details can be found in environmental impact certification issued by SPRA membrane manufacturers.


Durability is a product characteristic. Experience in mainland Europe goes back to the 1950’s and in the UK to the 1970’s, so we know that durability is proven and extending as new formulations are developed. Service life depends on workmanship factors and obligations on building owners to inspect and maintain roofs. This why SPRA puts a high priority on training and site quality control. Again, service life has gradually increased.

Contribution to carbon reduction

Carbon reduction is fundamental to sustainability because it secures not only the environmental but also the social and economic future of society.

End of life

Recycling and re-use – Single ply membranes are recyclable; opportunities for recovery and recycling have increased as volumes have increased.

Disposal – Polymer waste is a high value commodity with many re-uses. SPRA policy is to reduce disposal to landfill to zero. Ultimately, the carbon content can be recovered by high temperature incineration.

SPRA Research & Development

SPRA is actively addressing the issue of Sustainability in our sector and is leading the way within Roofing. Phase 1 has been a research exercise amongst members to establish the potential for a collection and recycling scheme for single ply roofing waste. Axion Consulting was commissioned by SPRA to investigate potential volumes of single ply roofing waste, establish current waste management practices within the sector and ascertain the interest from roofing manufacturers and contractors in a collection and recycling scheme being set up.  Phase 2, a reasearch project to establish a robust data collection system has also been completed.

Sustainability was the theme of the SPRA 2018 Conference and presentations were made on a range of issues linked to sustainability were presented by key speakers from across the industry. Of particularly interest was the presentation by Dr Aidan Bell (Director of Envirobuild Ltd) and a summary of his presentation can be downloaded here.

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