Did you know that… Composite can be recycled 100%?

M.I.P. builds sustainable storage systems in composite (Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic). Why we choose composite as a building material is no longer a secret. Composite offers clear advantages over traditional materials such as concrete, aluminum, steel and stainless steel.

For example, composite is corrosion resistant, requires almost no maintenance, has a high insulation value, is impact resistant and insensitive to condensation. But did you know that composite is also circular? In other words, did you know that composite can be 100% recycled?

To find out all about this, we interviewed our neighbors from CRC or the Circular Recycling Company in Moerdijk.

About plastics recycling company CRC

CRC is involved in the recycling of thermosetting composites (= plastic materials that remain hard and therefore undeformed when heated). Thermosetting composite is in turn made of resin and glass fiber or carbon fiber and can be found in many products today. Just think of airplanes, dormer windows, works of art, bottom plates of cars, windmill blades or boats.

CRC was created in 2020 because there were no sustainable solutions for the recycling of composites yet. Why not? Simply because it cost too much money and was not seen as profitable. Now that the government is increasingly steering towards sustainability and energy neutrality, more and more companies are also willing to invest in this.

Two years later, there is an annual demand for no less than 4,000 tons of new raw materials.

100% recyclable or circular?

When a new windmill blade is made from an old windmill blade, we speak of 100% circularity. Of course that is not (always) possible. Circularity means that the raw materials can be reused in new products and recycled again after use.

30% of all composite that is recycled consists of dust. When this substance is depolymerized at a very low temperature, naphtha (a type of oil) is obtained, which can ultimately be used to make different types of plastics.

This makes composite fully circular and therefore 100% recyclable.

Discover how recycling works

By collecting, sorting and mechanically & chemically processing thermosetting composites, various recycling flows are created. These recycling streams consist of 70% coarse and fine recycled material and glass and carbon fiber (mechanical processing). The other 30% are dust residues.

The mechanical processing takes place via 3 fractions:

  • The first fraction is quite large and is rotated twice because the raw material often still contains iron or wood particles.

  • Fraction 2 depends on the resin used
    • Epoxy resin creates longer fibers that often still have resin attached to them. These can be used for making sheet piles, among other things.
    • With polyester resin, a smaller fiber is obtained with almost no resin attached. These can be used for, among other things, tank and silo roofs made of composite.

Both fraction 1 and fraction 2 are completely dust-free.

  • Fraction 3 is the finest fraction. This produces 30% dust and furthermore very fine epoxy or polyester resin with glass fiber.

Subsequently, a chemical process takes place, in which pyro-oil (or naphtha) is made from the 70% recyclate, glass & carbon fiber and from the 30% dust residues. This pyro-oil is ultimately used as a raw material for new plastics.

Endless possibilities in new end products

Different products are never mixed with each other because then you actually obtain raw materials that in fact do not exist (think of the combination of, for example, tanks & windmills).

Furthermore, the possibilities are endless! For example, the recycled material is currently already being used in construction & infrastructure technology. In addition, a test is underway in which the composition of the product is mixed with thermoplastics (= plastic materials that soften when heated) so that it can be used in the automotive industry.

Sustainable CO2 savings

In the past, the waste was incinerated. Today, the waste is often exported and then buried. Both methods are by no means sustainable or circular. In addition, regular waste processing companies often have to deal with high costs.

Until recently, sustainable solutions weren't possible for the recycling of composites, until now.

Did you know that another major advantage is the large CO2 savings that arise when the recycled composites are reused in new products?

The future of recycling at M.I.P.?

For CRC there must always be a front but also a back. The mountain of composite that is released from recycling must also be reused in an end product. Currently, CRC already has a lot of well-known customers, but certainly not enough to get rid of all the released composite. The concept is still too young for this.

And what M.I.P. Re? Our homework already consists of thinking about what the back of our composite tanks & silos could be. Together with CRC, we too could contribute to a greener future!

Your partner in composite storage systems

Are you looking for a custom solution for the sustainable & safe bulk storage of your complex liquids or moisture-sensitive solids? Request a free quote. We are happy to help you.