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SMMT Supports UK Thermoset Composite Recycling Research

21 June 2005

The UK's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is to support a University research project into the reusability of thermoset composites in the automotive industry.

As part of its commitment to meeting ELV recycling and re-use obligations, SMMT is to play a key role in a new study into the re-use of plastics in car making and has pledged its support to the University of Exeter who is one of the partners in the project, receiving 250,000 GBP for its part in the three year research initiative.

The research, Recycling Thermoset Composites (RECCOMP) is a DTI funded programme worth some 880,000 over three years which will support a GBP team of researchers and engineers at the University of Exeter which will lead a consortium of industry and academia.

The study will investigate the best way to re-use thermoset composites, which make up nine to 12 per cent of every vehicle. Many types of plastics are ideal for car manufacturing being strong, durable and light, but these specialist plastics are often difficult to recycle in the conventional way, unlike thermoplastics.

Dr Oana Ghita, of the University of Exeter School of Engineering, Computer Sciences and Mathematics said, 'Conventional plastics, such as those used in drinks bottles or packaging can easily be melted and re-used, but this is not the case for some of the plastics used in cars. The aim is to understand how exactly they need to be ground down to enable them to be made into new substances that compete with virgin material in engineering specification and price.'

Oana Ghita suggested that the primary focus will be to look at the properties of the materials once they have been ground down to see how and where the materials can be reused.

By 2006, EU legislation requires that 85 per cent of a vehicle is either recycled or re-used. By 2015 that will rise to 95 per cent. As recyclable metals only make up 76 per cent of the average passenger car, the challenge is to make the recycling of other components technically feasible and economically viable.

Other partners in the Exeter University study include SIMS Metals, Menzolit, Mitras Automotive, The British Plastics Federation, Brunel University, SP Technologies Ltd and European Friction Industries.





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