For road maintenance, 2021 will be a year to remember: it will, in fact, mark a growth in asphalt production – the main indicator of the state of maintenance of the network – which will reach 35 million tons. This is a record figure in the last 10 years: + 10% compared to 2020 and, even, + 57% vs 2016 (when construction and maintenance activities were worth only 22.3 million tons of asphalt). However, the recent boom in commodity costs could jeopardize this recovery.
This is what emerges from the new quarterly analysis carried out by the SITEB – Strade Italiane E Bitumi Association, made known on the occasion of Asphaltica, the exhibition dedicated to technologies and solutions for road paving, safety and road infrastructures, promoted by the Association and by Veronafiere and in course until November 26 at the Verona fair. At the end of the year, therefore, the value of production could approach 3 billion euros, + 13% compared to 2020 and + 90% compared to 5 years ago. The number of employees directly involved is also growing, amounting to 35,000, rising to 500,000 if the entire related business is considered, against a number of production plants which have returned to 400, as in 2016.
“The world of roads, after a first slight recovery in 2017, has experienced a significant development in the last three years. The funds put in place by the PNRR, even if they are also destined for other infrastructures, could act as a flywheel for a recovery of these investments too “, underlined in an official note the President Siteb, Michele Turrini:” The market relating to the production of conglomerate bituminous could in the near future return to pre-2006 values (ie those before the economic crisis), ie around 40 million tons. So far the positive notes. The negative aspects concern the unexpected increase in the costs of raw materials which has reached values never recorded in the past and which could nullify all the efforts made so far to revive a sector that for years has not seen such a massive dose of investment. The public construction sector is not subject to price revision so companies cannot request an update on the costs of materials (steel, cement and bitumen have undergone unpredictable increases during the year). This is why we asked the Government to implement a compensation mechanism for the sector similar to the one put in place in the first half of 2021 for construction materials, which have undergone an increase of more than 8% “.
The recycling rate of roads is also growing with the recovery of milled material, which reaches 30% of the total road pavements (i.e. the aforementioned 35 million tons of bituminous conglomerate): we were at 20% in 2014 and 25% in 2018. ; but the gap with respect to other European countries still needs to be filled, which on average manage to recover around 65%. Thanks to the pavements recovered in 2021, the use of 420,000 tons of virgin bitumen – with a relative reduction in oil requirements – and 10,500,000 tons of aggregates was avoided, for a total saving of approximately 420 million euros of materials alone. raw materials and a reduction in polluting emissions equivalent to those generated by 4 medium-sized refineries. “Assuming that in the not too distant future the recovery of the milled material can reach at least 50% (also considering the data recorded in other countries), we could use 700,000 tons of bitumen less and avoid the use of 17.5 million tons of virgin aggregates, with a saving of 700 million euros ”, explains Siteb in an official note.