New report on composites recycling

Recovery processes, re-use and application, the environmental impact of recycling, fiber-reinforced thermoplastics and recyclable resins, applications for dry fibers and legislation are all covered in the report.

Composites UK, Herts, UK, and the Universities of Nottingham, Manchester and Birmingham, launched its new report on composites recycling to coincide with its circular economy event at ELG Carbon Fibre last week.

In the document, ‘Composites Recycling – Where are we now?,’ details are given of the current recycling processes available for carbon and glass fiber (FRP) waste, as well as future steps which need to be taken in order to make these processes more commercially viable.   

Recovery processes, re-use and application, the environmental impact of recycling, fiber-reinforced thermoplastics and recyclable resins, applications for dry fibers and legislation are all covered in the report.

To coincide with this Composites UK has also updated the environmental section of its website, adding a list of companies who can actively assist businesses with a whole manner of waste from FRP manufacturing process. 

Stella Job, Supply Chain and Environmental Manager at Composites UK said: “It is important for Composites UK as a trade association to work with our own industry and the waste management sector to minimize any negative environmental impact and gain the best value from our waste. We are committed to supporting new processes and supply chains which will help us achieve this. We heard from several of the organizations we are working with at our event last week: ‘A Circular Economy for the Composites Industry,’ with a backdrop of ELG’s shredding and sorting facility.”

Several solutions now exist to recycle carbon fiber waste back into high value products. Research is ongoing to improve the value of the recyclate, especially through better fiber alignment, showcased in presentations by Nottingham and Bristol Universities and Tilsatec. Gary Leeke from Cranfield University brought a two-person carbon fiber kayak to the event, manufactured from carbon fiber recycled by a solvolysis process which could be scaled up to recover resin chemicals as well as fibers.

GRP remains difficult to recycle economically, but solutions as RDF (refuse derived fuel) for energy from waste or cement kilns now exist. Waste management consultant Agecko has worked with Composites UK members to progress this, as well as direct re-use of GRP waste in temporary road surfaces on landfill sites.

It’s not just the FRP waste itself, but other wastes from our industry are being tackled, including clean fibers and consumables. Presentations at the event covered recently developed recycling routes for breather fabrics, films and silicone release paper as well as an interesting potential synergy where glass fibre manufacturing waste could be mixed with waste plastics to make rail and coastal infrastructure products.

‘Composites Recycling – Where are we now?’ is available as a free download on the Composites UK website – www.compositesuk.co.uk/recyclingreport