The National Composites Centre is aiming to create the UK’s first glass fibre composites recycling and re-use facility of its kind. The organisation is supporting a new consortium that has been formed to address the growing challenge of decarbonisation and recycling of composite materials in the marine industry and beyond.
The Blue Composites Project is made up of the UK’s leading marine and maritime companies, composites specialists, academic institutions and local government organisations, led by Blue Parameters, a Guernsey based marine consultancy. The facility will look at the process of recycling composite materials and how the reclaimed materials and fibres could be repurposed for use in new composite components. The Centre estimates there are around six million boats in the EU, 95% of which are made of GRP. Of these, figures show around 2,000 are recycled when they reach the end of their useful life and between 6,000-9,000 are abandoned.
It costs an estimated £7060 to recycle a 7m (23ft) boat, rising to more than £1,300 for 10-12m (33-39ft) and up to £13,00 for boats over 15m (50ft) long.
Around 55,000 tonnes of GRP waste is produced from the UK marine sector every year, with the level expected to increase by 10% per year.
The technology focus for the Blue Composites Project is the DEECOM process, developed by B&M Longworth. Originally designed to remove waste polymer from plastics filters and production equipment, the process uses pressurised superheated steam, to penetrate microscopic fissures in the composite’s polymer.
It is estimated the opportunities for the UK supply chain in a global end-of-life composites component market are in excess of £2bn per annum.