Different techniques to recycle composite materials

Various techniques are available on the market to recycle composite materials


In recent years, the recycling of composite materials market has evolved. The AGEC legislation and industry’s willingness to act in favor of the environment by promoting more sustainable solutions is one of the reasons things are changing.
In this context, we would like to give you a quick (non-exhaustive) summary of today’s different techniques for recycling composites.
First, composite waste is mainly qualified production waste: scrap, end-of-life products and defective parts.


The different techniques to recycle composite materials are:
– re-employment
– reuse
– recycling
– energy recovery
– and finally, landfill

Carbon Fiber Composite

Carbon Fiber Composite


Another technique is the re-employment of composites

So re-employment is the first technique to recycle composite materials. It is probably the most virtuous solution for a product to retain an equivalent use and avoid classification as waste. It is the simplest solution for end-of-life management of composite materials when feasible.


The reuse of composites

Reuse is also one of the most virtuous ways of upgrading classified materials as waste. Therefore, it is possible to find various materials from end-of-life materials whose structure can be rehabilitated for other applications. Therefore, you can reuse carbon fiber to manufacture drones or cargo bikes.


The recycling of composites

Recycling fiber-reinforced composites can be carried out in various ways, notably in processes and technologies.
Thus several treatment solutions exist, such as processes:
– mechanical
– thermal
– chemical

Mechanical recycling is the most economical method of treating composites because it allows the recycling of the entire material. The process begins with an initial reduction in the size of the composite waste. The main operation is to cut the original material into thinner elements.
Fairmat proposes a mechanical solution to recycle carbon fiber composite sustainably. If you want to know more, contact us or read our Q&A.

Then, heat treatment by pyrolysis aims to recover the reinforcement fibers by decomposing and thermally degrading the polymer chains of the organic matrix. It takes place at temperatures of 300 to 800°C for several hours in an anoxic chamber.

Chemical recycling or solvolysis is mainly carried out for thermosetting composites. In this process, the most widely used solvent is water. However, solvents with lower temperature and pressure, such as propanol, ethanol, methanol, or acetone, can be used alone or mixed with water under moderate operating conditions.


The energy recovery

The energy recovery includes two different techniques:
– solid recovery fuel (SRF)
– incineration

SRF is a fuel produced by drying, filtering, and shredding solid waste. It refers to all types of solid non-hazardous waste. There are not made up solely of biomass and calorific value is sufficiently high to be of interest for the recovery by combustion of fossil fuels.
Composite wastes may also be used as alternative fuels in conventional incineration units for energy recovery, as found in the management of non-recoverable household waste.


The last technique is the landfilling of composites

Landfilling is the waste treatment cycle’s last technique to recycle composites and the most unfavorable solution. Indeed, although the majority of composite production waste has so far been landfilled, the centers are only allowed to receive final waste. There is a saturation of storage facilities and an increase in landfilling costs. Also, let us not forget the new law.


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