Can composites be recycled?

Yes, composites can be recycled. A distinction should be made between thermoplastic composites and thermoset composites.

How can thermoplastic composites be recycled?

Thermoplastic composites are recycled by grinding finished parts into small particles. These particles can be fed into an injection moulding machine together with virgin thermoplastic composite materials.
Can thermoset composites be recycled

Thermoset composites can also be recycled. Contrary to thermoplastic composites, the resin part of the composite cannot be reshaped again by heating. Thermoset composites are therefore ground in special equipment where the reinforcing fibres are separated from the resin and filler part. The fibres can be reused as reinforcing material in other applications; the resin and filler part is used again as filler in many other applications.

How can glass fibre waste (fabric, mat etc) be recycled?

Clean glass fibre waste is recycled by cutting it into short fibre lengths. These milled fibres are used in thermoplastic composites.

Can carbon fibre waste (fabric, prepreg etc) be recycled?

A process to recycle clean uncured carbon fibre, as well as carbon fibre prepreg and cured materials, has been developed in the UK recently.

For more information go to www.milledcarbon.com.

Where can I find more information about recycling of composite materials and components?

In Europe the ECRC (European Composites Recycling Co) is setting up a closed loop system to recycle thermoset composite materials. For more information go to www.ecrc-greenlabel.org.