Composites recycling slowly gaining momentum

DSM Composite Resins AG reports that it has been actively involved in the screening of different recycling technologies for composites.

DSM Composite Resins AG (Schaffhausen, Switzerland) reports that it has been actively involved in the screening of different recycling technologies for composites. Leading a project team for the European industry group EuCIA’s Recycling and Sustainability Platform in 2012, DSM evaluated in detail the coprocessing of composite regrind in cement manufacturing and confirmed that it is the most sustainable composites recycling strategy today, based on a lifecycle analysis (LCA) study. Together with cement manufacturer Holcim Technology Ltd. (Zurich, Switzerland) and its waste management unit Geocycle, DSM performed a detailed LCA on the cement clinker manufacturing process and the use of composite regrind as alternative input material. During the study, the research parties have been using the LCA4Waste software tool, which was jointly developed by Holcim, the Zurich-based university ETH Zürich, the Swiss Ministries of Environment and Energy, and the association of Swiss waste treatment plants.

The analysis confirmed that using glass-reinforced composite regrind in coprocessing can help minimize composites’ carbon footprint significantly. This is very good news both for the composites industry and the cement industry in their efforts to increase sustainability. According to DSM, the study conclusion will have a strong and positive influence within both sectors, and will encourage increasing acceptance and future use of composite materials.

“Recycling of composite materials through coprocessing is a reality already today, in full compliance with the European Waste Framework Directive,” comments Thomas Wegman, marketing manager at DSM. “Therefore, it has been a great pleasure to work together with the EuCIA project team to demonstrate the positive impact on carbon emission reductions [that] composite recycling can bring.”

“DSM has been actively involved in developing solutions for composites recycling for many years,” adds Fons Harbers, European commercial director for DSM. “Providing reliable end-of-life solutions is vital for the future growth of composites.”

An electronic version of the DSM brochure on composites recycling, titled “Renewable Value,” is available at the following Web site:

Other companies are also joining the LCA and recycling efforts. At the recent American Composites Manufacturers Assn. (ACMA, Arlington, Va.) COMPOSITES 2013 event in Orlando, Fla., CT had the opportunity to speak with Frank O’Brien-Bernini, VP and chief sustainability officer at Owens Corning Composite Materials (Toledo, Ohio). “The LCA data inventory for composites has grown a lot over the last few years, and that data is being managed by a third party, Franklin Assoc. [Prairie Village, Kan.],” he says. “There is now considerably more fiberglass data, as well as more new LCA case studies, which are available from ACMA.” But, for O’Brien-Bernini, recycling is a big issue that has not yet been addressed adequately by the composites industry: “For the metals industry, it’s all about recycling and recyclability. The composites industry really needs to start working on this issue to keep up,” he says. Owens Corning has recently developed a program to recycle its roofing shingle products, whereby homeowners can contact contractors in their area who are participating in the program to prevent landfill disposal. The ground-up shingles are used in asphalt for paving.