A novel materials science appraisal that proposes a paradigm shift in the evaluation of recycling materials for road applications has been developed. The appraisal advances materials science thinking in the field of road engineering, has consistent performance criteria for road materials and addresses the concerns about the variable nature of recycled material sources. The appraisal has been realised by reviewing material types, road pavement structures and road pavement distress, and, consequently, conceptual development of the appraisal for materials recycling in roads. The development of the novel materials science appraisal, based on broad fundamental material-types (ceramic-type, metallic-type and polymeric-type), has defined how materials science through a systematic step-by-step procedure can be used to achieve engineering sustainability. The materials science appraisal provides a method for addressing uncertainties in material properties. Thus, the materials science appraisal evaluates recycling of materials in road applications and will be of benefit for various stakeholders (e.g. client, consultant, and contractor) and the environment.