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Composites UK site visit to ELG Carbon Fibre highlights need for composite recycling

News International-French

16 Jul 2014

Recently Composites UK, the Trade Association for the UK composites industry, organised its latest site visit to ELG Carbon Fibre (ELG CF) in the UK’s West Midlands.

The event highlighted that global carbon fibre demand is predicted at 60,000 tonnes by 2015, with the UK using about 6% of this. Approximately 18,000 of this ends up as production waste annually - a significant proportion. At the moment, ELG Carbon Fibre can take 1,500 tonnes of waste annually where this pyrolised into an intermediate product, which can then be processed into one of five finished products: milled fibre, pellets, random mats, yarns and 3D preforms.

Recycled carbon fibre products lend themselves to use in some very cost effective, high rate manufacturing processes, both here in the UK as well as overseas. Carbon fibre tooling is a good example where recycled carbon fibre can be used to a cost advantage, producing a mould that is up to 40% cheaper than a virgin carbon fibre equivalent.

Alex Edge, ELG’s Sales and Business Development Manager said of the event; “ELG CF has been in a period of growth and change recently. To highlight the changes we have undergone and to set the stage for future developments, ELG CF wanted to reach out to industry, our peers and colleagues. The best way to reach those groups of people was through our Composites UK membership. So we worked with Composites UK to devise the best way to communicate with the industry and we settled on some site tours, both of which were very well received and were able to generate interesting and worthwhile discussions.”

During the visit delegates were shown the scale of the operation there as well as the technology involved. Key factors are the supply of waste carbon fibre, categorisation of the material received and end-market applications for the recyclate produced. Delegates were keen to look to work with ELG on future projects to address these issues.

Tom Mallens, Director at Fibrecore who attended the event said; “This was a great visit organised by Composites UK. ELG is a very impressive operation and it was interesting to see that it is finding loads of new processes to re-use carbon fibre in cost-effective and productive ways.”

Geraldine Oliveux of Birmingham University added; “As a research fellow on the recycling of composite materials, the ELG Carbon Fibre visit was very instructive in terms of real industrial constraints. ELG Carbon Fibre is actually a pioneer in this field and I am really happy to have learnt more about how it works and its objectives. It’s really motivating for me.”