What would Don Quixote Recycle?

What would Don Quixote Recycle?

Markku Vilkki, CEO and co-owner of Conenor, is the work package leader for the demonstration activities within ECOBULK. One of his current tasks is to compile a list of possible materials that could be used for designing products in a more circular way. After a long time in the R&D business, he now wants to do something that will make a “real” difference. In his search for materials, he opted to seek out the most challenging, and perhaps environmentally most threatening, of materials – Carbon and Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymers (CFRPs/GFRPs). They pose a threat because of their growing popularity and use in many industrial sectors, while options to recycle them are few, in some cases, none. The analysts of Ceresana expect the global market for C-FRP and G-FRP to increase to a volume of over 9.98 million tons by 2024. Mr. Vilkki arrived in Barcelona for the second ECOBULK coordination meeting with samples of early trials using these materials.

He identified two major problem products – wind turbine blades and plastic pipes. A short time ago, Finland’s very first wind power turbines were dismantled after nearly 30 years in service. A lot of it should be easy to recycle – mostly steel. But the blades, the largest up to 90 meters long and close to 10 tons in weight, are made with thermoset FRPs that have so far been considered unrecyclable. Mr. Vilkki managed to get some samples of the blade materials he could use in his experiments. It went well, as can be seen by his first samples of FRP wood composite extrusion profiles containing 20% FRP waste from those very first turbines. Mr. Vilkki is now arranging a collaboration with a recycling company in Holland – Virol – who will have the interesting task of collecting and preparing – in other words, crushing – the turbine blade material in bulk volumes to be used in production.

The second set of samples comes from Mr. Vilkki’s previous job at a well-known Finnish plastic pipe manufacturer. Multi-layer pipes are popular because of the special barrier performance properties that can be added to them by adding layers. But these extra layers make them difficult or impossible to recycle, because the layers are not easily separated. So, while the products boast recyclable materials, in practice they are not. However, with Conenor’s new agglomeration techniques this might change. His second set of samples, are multi-layer decking board extrusion products containing 30% recycled (coated) pipe material and 20% GFRP material from production waste.

Mr. Vilkki’s next challenge is to find interesting sources of wood furniture waste that could be used in his formulations to create more opportunities to recycle materials. He welcomes your suggestions. To learn more about this revolutionary FRP recycling concept, please visit the Conenor website or contact Mr Vilkki directly (contact details on the Conenor site).


hermoplastic reinforcement from frp-waste