In this recycling route, glass fibre thermoset composite parts (both waste from part manufacturing and end-of-life components) are cut up and processed into small chunks. The resulting composite regrind is then used both as a raw material and as a source of energy in cement manufacturing: 

  • the mineral part of the composite (silica, calcium carbonate, alumina etc) is integrated into the clinker (the product of the cement kiln and the basic raw material for cement); and
     
  • the organic part of the composite (resin) is used as a substitute fuel, enabling savings to be made in the use of other (fossil) fuels

The recycling of glass reinforced composite regrind through this co-processing route in cement kilns can reduce the carbon footprint of cement manufacturing by up to 16%, EuCIA reports.

Composite recycling operations based on the process are being used on an industrial scale in Europe today.

EU legislation

Recycling through co-processing in cement kilns is fully compliant with the European Waste Framework Directive (WFD) 2008/98/EC, and thus provides a viable waste management route for the composites industry. Co-processing is both recycling and energy recovery.

The European Commission is undertaking a review of current waste legislation as part of its 2013 work programme. Among other objectives, it aims to ensure Europe uses its resources more efficiently.

“We welcome the European Commission decision to update current EU legislation on waste," Volker Fritz, President of EuCIA, says.

"Since 2008, the composites industry delivered on sustainability and recyclability and continues to do so, analysing best options. We are looking forward entering into the dialogue with the EU to discuss the potential of composites industry towards resource efficiency."

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