Challenges

With our sights firmly set on a sustainable future, we are presented with an opportunity to take the lead in developing the next generation of composite materials that support our net zero ambitions. Sustainable Composites is addressing the following challenges, looking at the whole lifecycle of composites to future-proof the aeroplanes, cars and wind turbines of tomorrow. 

Limited recycling methods

Of the 110,000 tonnes of composites produced in the UK each year, currently only 15% will be reused or recycled at the end of their life. Commercial composite recycling methods and end-of-life strategies are limited and often not economically viable, especially for glass. Other methods are at low technology readiness level (TRL).

Recyclate with lower properties

Current recycling methods often degrade the materials performance and the value of the materials reclaimed from composites is reduced: the matrix is often sacrificial, and the fibres become damaged and have few applications.

Landfill disposal

85% of the composites produced in the UK each year are currently not reused or recycled at the end of their life. That's 94,000 tonnes of glass and carbon fibre composite waste going to landfill in the UK alone. Landfill tax is increasing, and like in other countries, disposal or export of composites waste may be restricted or forbidden in the future. 

Low adoption of alternative feedstock

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Low adoption of alternative feedstock

More than 95% of composites are made from raw materials and resins that are derived from oil, making them unsustainable. Some bio-based materials are commercially available, but a lack of confidence in these materials limits use within industry.

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