How does using recycled FRP financially affect your clients?
The greatest motivation for recycling FRP is overall cost. FRP recycling financially impacts fabricators in two ways: opportunity costs and disposal costs. Opportunity costs are overlooked scrap cost of materials thrown away that might have been used to produce a saleable product. Disposal costs are what people are considering when the topic of waste cost is mentioned. Disposal costs include transportation and landfill fees. Hazardous landfill costs continue to climb due to increased government regulations, oversight and limited hazardous landfill storage.
Can you talk about the physical process of recycling FRP? What options do companies like SolidCast Polymer Technology have, and which do you prefer?
Basically, there are three common FRP recycling processes: mechanical shredding, incineration and reclamation. In recent years, these haven’t been as economically feasible as sending FRP scrap to a hazardous waste landfill. But population, demographics, environmental awareness and increased landfill cost are forcing FRP fabricators to utilize different waste disposal methods that are economically feasible and also include a beneficial public relations outcome.
The incineration process burns off resin binders and leaves glass fibers. It’s extremely expensive, with exorbitant capital equipment costs. Incineration also triggers consequential air emission issues. Along with the high cost of ash disposal, incineration can degrade the physical properties of the remaining glass fibers by as much as 50 percent, and leaves residue that inhibits bonding of most thermosetting resins systems.
The problem with conventional shredding is it produces inconsistent reclaimed fiber sizes, which results in fiber particles being too large or too small. The consumption of these recycled fillers is limited. Also, inconsistent fiber sizing ultimately results in unpredictable physical properties and various resin-to-fiberglass loading, making it difficult to establish fixed raw material and manufacturing costs.
Reclamation harvesting is what we prefer because it lends itself to generating greater uniformity and consistency in fiberglass sizing. This process also allows for greater predictability of physical properties and resin-to-fiberglass ratios. More importantly, the harvested FRP preserves its original physical properties and provides for a more suitable reusable composite product. We rely on a machine called the ECO-WOLF Grinder/Muncher, which acts similarly to a hammer-mill that is built to withstand abrasive fiberglass.
How does the machine works?
It takes waste material and makes recycled needles out of it. When I went to view how it worked for the first time, I was amazed. We took fiberglass and placed it in a hopper area, and the material basically vanished as fast as you could blink your eye. It has a collection bag underneath to grab the fibers, and another bag that sucks up powders and dust. The machine turns fiberglass into impregnated needle fibers that already have resin cured in them. The material doesn’t suck up resin, and we soon realized we can use a certain percentage of the recycled FRP material from reclamation harvesting – usually about 2.5 percent to 5 percent – to help save clients money.