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Automotive Industry endorses 'European Composite Recycling Concept'

22 April 2003

A major challenge that faces the FRP industry over the coming years is how to deal with production and end-of-life waste. New European waste directives on landfill and incineration will put mounting pressure on these traditional disposal routes. Landfill of composite waste will be forbidden by the end of 2004 by most EU Member states, and incineration will have limits imposed on the level of energy content.

In order to comply with the various EU waste directives on end-of-life materials, customers – especially in the market sectors of Automotive and E&E – are demanding that the FRP industry provides a composite waste management concept. This means that component suppliers have to agree to accept responsibility for the recycling of the end-of-life waste.

As a consequence, the FRP industry has to move away from traditional waste management practices as currently applied. Landfill and incineration have always been the simplest and preferred disposal methods accounting for 98% of FRP waste: while alternative disposal routes such as reuse in cement and asphalt or mechanical recycling, account for the remaining 2%. It is vital that integral concepts will be developed to effectively reuse the FRP recycle material. With the development of new, more environmentally friendly and economically viable concepts for the recycling and reuse of composite materials, the future of composites in key market segments will be secured, as this material is an excellent building block for light weight, energy friendly parts for the automotive and E&E industry.

Although companies such as MCR, Miljotek and ERCOM have proven the feasibility of mechanical recycling on an industrial scale, low utilization levels are making such ventures uneconomical at this point in time. Therefore, an imbalance remains between the collectable waste and the potential end-markets for recyclate. So far none of the markets identified for recyclate could generate positive value.

In order to meet these challenges the key European suppliers in the chain, together with the European composite trade association, the GPRMC and associated bodies are introducing ‘European Composite Recycling Concept’. This will help to fund the high investment needed to develop, validate and promote new recycling, re-use and end-of-life solutions. The concept is that FRP suppliers across Europe (including other regions) operating in the FRP value chain will financially participate in the development of a standardized composite waste management solution for end-of-life waste.

Funding will be used to launch R&D programs to study new and improved ways of collecting and recycling FRP waste, as well as seeking out and developing new markets for recyclate. In return for their financial support, participating partners will be entitled to display the ‘green FRP recycling label’ on their products. The target date for the launch of the European Composite Recycling Concept is the end of 2003.

Since the automotive industry appears to be bearing the brunt of the new EU waste directive, green label will start here but will later be opened up to other FRP market segments in the future.

Feedback from OEM’s has been positive as witnessed by the two organizations of DaimlerChrysler and Renault: As Bruno Stark, Head of the Design for Environment division (DfE) of Mercedes Car Group at DaimlerChrysler commented: “We are pleased to see the composites industry proactively taking a lead role in developing a recycling and waste management concept for end-of-life materials. All members in the automotive value chain should assume their role and contribute towards making this initiative a reality.” “The European Composite Recycling Concept is an excellent initiative and something that the automotive industry has long waited for. There are financing and recycling challenges to resolve before we see a clear model of how this concept will work in practice, but we are very positive about the prospect of an international industry approach to resolving this important issue” says Pierre Valersteinas, manager of Renault’s Recycling Engineering Division.