Uncured carbon composite waste from GKN Aerospace's Isle of Wight facility will be recycled by Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd.
Uncured carbon composite waste from GKN Aerospace's Isle of Wight facility will be recycled by Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd.

The recycling will take place at Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd (RCF)'s carbon composite recycling facility in the West Midlands, UK.

The recycling work of RCF started in 2003 with Milled Carbon, which built a pilot plant based upon a continuous pyrolysis process. Once the concept was proved, RCF was set up in 2008 to turn this technology into a commercial reality. Today, RCF operates a plant with a furnace that has the capacity to process 2000 tonnes of carbon fibre waste a year.

GKN Aerospace estimates that approaching 100 tonnes of carbon composite waste from its Cowes site will be recycled in the next 12 months as part of this "cost neutral agreement."

The recycled material will be used in a variety of products, including paints and coatings, thermoplastic polymers, composite tooling and deep sea buoyancy products.

In the coming 5 years, as the GKN Aerospace operation at Cowes sees existing orders reach full production levels, there is predicted to be a 30% rise in the quantity of waste for recycling from the site.

A greener future

GKN Aerospace is a leading tier one supplier of composite and metallic structures to the global aerospace industry.

“Our composite research facility has been working with RCF for some time and our aim now is to commence a programme that will ultimately establish recycling as an integral part of our full production manufacturing process in the UK, and globally," explains Rich Oldfield, Director of Technology, GKN Aerospace.

“To balance the performance and environmental gains achieved through using composites in aircraft operations it is vital the industry progresses towards greener manufacture on a number of fronts and we believe an effective recycling process is at the heart of that progression,” he adds.

“Until now, the only solutions for disposing of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) waste have been landfill or incineration, both of which are harmful to the environment," reports Steve Line, Managing Director of RCF. "The unique RCF process allows GKN Aerospace to act in an environmentally friendly way."

"From RCF’s point of view, the GKN Aerospace waste will be an important part of our feedstock supply in the coming years.”