GKN Aerospace to begin carbon fiber recycling

Over the next year, GKN Aerospace expects to send 100 metric tonnes of uncured carbon fiber to U.K.-based Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd.

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GKN Aerospace (Cowes, Isle of Wight, U.K.) reported on June 20 that it has signed an agreement with Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd. (RCF, Birmingham, U.K.) to recycle uncured carbon waste from its aerostructure manufacturing operation in Cowes. Recycling will take place at RCF’s carbon recycling facility in the West Midlands, U.K.

GKN Aerospace estimates that about 100 metric tonnes of carbon fiber waste from the Cowes site will be recycled in the next 12 months as part of this cost neutral agreement. The recycled material will be used in a variety of products, including paints and coatings, thermoplastic polymers, composite tooling and deep-sea buoyancy products. In the coming five years, as the GKN Aerospace operation at Cowes sees existing orders reach full production levels, there is predicted to be a 30 percent increase in the quantity of waste for recycling from this site alone.

Rich Oldfield, director of technology, GKN Aerospace, explains: “Our composite research facility has been working with RCF for some time and our aim now is to commence a program that will ultimately establish recycling as an integral part of our full production manufacturing process in the U.K., and globally.

Oldfield continues: “To balance the performance and environmental gains achieved through using composites in aircraft operations, it is vital the industry progresses towards greener manufacture on a number of fronts and we believe an effective recycling process is at the heart of that progression.”

Steve Line, managing director of RCF, adds: “Until now, the only solutions for disposing of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic waste have been landfill or incineration, both of which are harmful to the environment. The unique RCF process allows GKN Aerospace to act in an environmentally friendly way. From RCF’s point of view, the GKN Aerospace waste will be an important part of our feedstock supply in the coming years. ”

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