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New recycling technologies to get 'Sustainable Composites'

In UK a new initiative is being launched to develop the next generation of sustainable products

A new initiative is being launched to develop the next generation of sustainable composite materials and bring together the UK’s composites expertise to quickly turn research breakthroughs into industrial applications. The UK Undersecretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Nadhim Zawahi MP, will announce the initiative on 3rd July at the University of Bristol’s Sustainability Summit 2020, taking place virtually from 29th June to 3rd July.

Led by the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) – two of the seven High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres – Sustainable Composites is a partnership between industry, academia and government that will harness the UK’s world-leading composites research and technology development capabilities to capitalise on this rapidly growing circ. £2bn global market for end-of-life recycling.

Composites are in high demand by manufacturers developing the next generation of lightweight, super energy-efficient planes, cars and wind turbines. Compared to metals and other materials, composites are lighter, stronger, more durable, longer-lasting, and allow more flexibility in design. But 85% of these valuable materials are currently not being reused or recycled at the end of their life.

Today’s advanced composites are complex structures comprising layers of materials and resin that are heated and compressed to create the materials. Whilst they can increase the lifespan of products by decades and reduce their environmental impact, unpicking these elements in a recycling process is difficult, and current recycling techniques often degrade the material’s performance, reducing their value and offering limited applications. In addition, more than 95% of composites are made from raw materials and resins that are derived from oil, making them unsustainable.

Sustainable Composites is set to address these challenges by accelerating the development of new recycling technologies in the UK while simultaneously creating new sustainable composites made from bio-based materials including vegetable waste, corn, nutshells and algae.

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