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The French composite recycling collective CRECOF has launched the first guide to recycling composites.
According to CRECOF, the guide is co-financed by IPC, the Industrial Technical Center whose expertise is dedicated to plastic and composite innovation in France, and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME). “The purpose of this guide is to provide answers to questions from manufacturers who work with fibre reinforced plastics (‘How can we recycle production waste?’ ‘Where can we find recycled raw materials?’),” says Mathieu Schwander, CRECOF Coordinator.
The amount of production waste that needs to be treated is estimated at 15,000 metric tons per year, and the amount of end-of-life composite products, at 7,000 metric tons per year. “The market for composites is booming, since these are materials of choice for manufacturing highly technical elements with high added value, in a broad range of sectors that includes aerospace, automotive, construction, wind energy, and the medical field. It is now possible to design parts with recycled raw materials and to create new products like a boot lining, fence base panels, and tiles for terraces,” explains Valerie Frerejean, Head of R&D programs – Eco-Plastics.
The guide presents the technologies that manufacturers use to recycle their composite products. CRECOF says that the first priority, of course, is to limit the quantities of waste that are landfilled. But the capacity to recycle composites is also an economic issue, both to give these high-value-added products a second life and to keep them competitive, compared to other types of materials considered to be more recyclable.
The guide reviews current solutions for recycling composites, highlighting the strengths and limits of each and providing practical examples of projects. Solutions include grinding and reincorporation for glass-fibre composites and dry reinforcements; pyrolysis for carbon fibre from composites; the use of plastic materials as an energy source; the incorporation of glass fibre into cement; and emerging technologies such as vapour thermolysis or solvolysis.
“IPC has included recycling in its General Research Programme. This guide helps illustrate initiatives on the part of companies to recycle composite products, in order to contribute to the development of a circular economy. The entire process – collection, treatment, upgrading and reincorporation – must be taken into account to successfully tackle this challenge,” explains Luc Uytterhaeghe, IPC CEO.
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