Products made from composite materials can offer significant environmental benefits because of their characteristically low weight, good mechanical properties and excellent resistance to corrosion. For example, composites used in cars can reduce the overall weight of the car and so offer fuel savings through the lifetime of the vehicle. However, although the in service environmental benefits of composites are known, there is far less understanding of the environmental and social implications associated with the manufacture of composite materials and products.
Issues affecting the industry include health & safety, the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), energy consumption and toxicity from manufacture. Alternative materials and technologies (such as closed mould processes, natural fibres and low-styrene resins) have been developed to address these problems, but to date there has still been confusion within the industry as to the detailed benefits of these alternatives.