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Closed-Loop Recycling Recovers Carbon Fiber in End-of-Life Aircraft

Imge: Aerocircular Carbon fiber recycling
ELG Carbon Fibre and Aerocircular N.V. join forces to establish a closed-loop recycling scheme for a material typically shredded and incinerated, or landfilled.

UK company ELG Carbon Fibre and Aerocircular N.V (Ostend-Bruges, Belgium) have joined forces to establish a closed-loop recycling scheme for end-of-life aircraft carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) waste streams. The companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to demonstrate their mutual commitment toward this initiative.

“Today, composite end-of-life (EoL) fractions are typically shredded and burned or landfilled,” said Aerocircular CEO Koen Staut. “By joining forces with ELG Carbon Fibre as an established international player in the field of carbon recycling, the ambition is to establish a closed-loop recycling process of our EoL aircraft carbon-composite material stream, maximizing value via a joint approach in further developing the recycling process and new product development using this reclaimed carbon fiber.”

Aerocircular waste image 400 202.jpg
Project targets recycling of carbon fiber from end-of-life aircraft. Image courtesy Aerocircular.

Stein Janssens, Director R&D, adds: “This collaboration with ELG will allow a robust, economically viable recycling flow with impact on an industrial scale. Doing so, every ton of carbon fiber from the aircraft we process to new material, saves 20 tons of GWP CO2eq. at only one-tenth of the energy required compared to producing virgin carbon fiber.”

Frazer Barnes, Managing Director of ELG Carbon Fibre states: “Recycling post-industrial waste from aircraft manufacturing activities has demonstrated the economic, technical, and environmental benefits that this new class of materials can deliver. By working with Aerocircular and expanding our activities into post-consumer waste from end-of-life aircraft, we are preparing to address the challenge that will be faced when carbon-fiber-intensive structures reach the end of their lives. This is an important step in ensuring that the carbon-fiber composites industry plays its part in meeting the environmental challenges we all face.”

Aerocircular is a start-up introducing the circular economy to the EoL aircraft sector. With Lufthansa as a launching customer, an operational site in Ostend (Belgium) and expansion sites under development in Phoenix (US) and Abu Dhabi (UAE), the company is growing quickly. Recycling of carbon-fiber-composite material fractions originating from the dismantled aircraft form an important societal challenge, and volumes are expected to increase drastically with current-generation aircraft having over 50 weight percent of CFRP on board.

ELG Carbon Fibre is a world leader in carbon-fiber recycling, having created the world’s first and largest recycling plant in the UK. With vast experience in aircraft production waste recycling for OEMs and Tier 1 production companies, ELG plans to expand carbon-fiber waste inflow also to EoL streams and develop processing, new materials, and market applications in the field.

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