According to Dr. Soydan Ozcan, senior scientist of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and composite recycling thrust lead for IACMI, ISRI gave ACMA good advice about trying to sell the fuel that comes from GFRP. However, it opens the door to many questions that don’t have a clear answer yet.

“Can we actually generate electricity out of that so it can actually run your factory?” Ozcan says. “And thinking a little further, can we really sell the electricity back to the grid? Is it possible or not?”

The Big Picture

One of the most significant hurdles Pilpel and others in the industry have already overcome is convincing manufacturers of the urgent need to recycle. Now that most manufacturers are on board, the industry has set some lofty goals. IACMI’s technical goals for 2020 are to reduce the cost of CFRP by 25 percent, reduce CFRP embodied energy by 50 percent and increase CFRP recyclability by 80 percent.

While Pilpel believes having quantitative goals is helpful, there is still some uncertainty as to how to define success in composites recycling. “What does 80 percent mean?” he asks. “Is the criteria that the waste stream come from manufacturing?” Ultimately, Pilpel believes the onus is on the composites industry to continue developing recycling technology. The industry should define its own parameters of success in terms of what it is capable of doing on an industrial scale in addition to the ones handed down from the government.

The long-term goal, Maxey says, is to no longer have anymore CFRP waste, but rather to have scrap go directly into the supply chain. He also hopes the industry can make the economics work for fiberglass recycling. But it’s not enough to simply develop the technology, he adds. The industry needs to continue raising the bar for market penetration.

A realistic short-term goal is to get recycled carbon fiber into a handful of high-value automotive programs and demonstrate that the supply chain can scale and that the economics work out on both sides,” says Maxey.

The biggest goal of all, Pilpel says, is for the industry to have as robust a recycling system as competing materials. With the right combination of continued federal funding, research, development and marketing, it’s possible.

An Alternate Approach
Connora Technologies, a relatively new company in Hayward, Calif., has developed an entirely different recycling process that does not involve grinding, burning or using solvolysis on uncured resin. As Connora CEO Rey Banatao explains, the company’s Recyclamine process does what no other known process can do: recycle a cured epoxy thermoset into a thermoplastic.