The global fiber-reinforced plastics recycling market had a revenue holding of USD 44.82 billion in 2021. It is expected to reach USD 69.3 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 5.6% during the forecast period (2022–2030). FRP comprises glass fiber, resin, and other auxiliary materials; it is corrosion-resistant, lightweight, and requires no maintenance. Fiber-reinforced polymers (FRP) are utilized extensively in daily necessities such as bathtubs, units, tanks, and fishing vessels. The plastics with fiber reinforcement are both lightweight and robust. They are stiffer, have a lower thermal expansion, superior tensile strength, high chemical resistance, and temperature tolerance. Due to these benefits, they are frequently employed in industries including shipbuilding, aerospace, and automobiles, where a high strength-to-weight ratio is necessary. It is claimed that FRP materials are difficult to recycle despite their great commercial value and exceptional durability. Various recycling procedures can be used to create a variety of components, paving the way for numerous recycling paths. It is possible to create these goods using recyclable material produced by crushing composites and pre-impregnated wastes from component offcuts.
The market is anticipated to develop over the next several years due to the growing amount of mixed waste, strict European rules on the disposal of composites, and new initiatives to encourage the reuse of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). On the other hand, challenges encountered in the recycling procedure, a lack of appropriate recycling processes for CFRP, and the long service life of CFRP, which results in the restricted availability of composite waste, are projected to impede the growth of the FRP recycling market. The market for fiber-reinforced plastic recycling is anticipated to benefit from the ongoing advancements in the field of recycling composites.
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Increased Accumulation of Composite Waste
The composites sector supplied components and goods for more than 15 application industries in 2021, according to the JEC Group, with an estimated production value of more than USD 100 billion and a volume of more than 12 million metric tons. Composites are becoming more prevalent in important sectors of the global economy like aerospace, transportation, construction, and wind energy due to the growing demand for more lightweight and long-lasting products. However, over 40% of the production of the overall composite is ultimately lost. Either they are discarded as scrap or are discovered to be faulty parts. The need for a circular economy has grown due to growing environmental awareness, dwindling natural resource availability, expanding urbanization, and rising world population. As a result, there will be an increased need for recyclable materials, particularly carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP).
Approximately 12,000 commercial aircraft are expected to end their useful lives in the next 20 years, while about six million cars are discarded worldwide each year. In addition, in the wind energy sector, over 20% of the composite fabrics used to make the rotor blades are often lost throughout the manufacturing process. These improvements are anticipated to dramatically increase the amount of composite trash produced by these businesses. For centuries, landfilling and incineration have been the most effective ways to address the problem of composite waste. But landfills are no longer considered the ideal way to dispose of trash because they consume a significant amount of land and pose health risks.
Composite trash is also accumulating quickly in Europe. By 2050, it is anticipated that 483,000 metric tons of carbon fiber reinforced waste—used in the manufacture of turbine blades in the wind turbine industry, for example—will have been generated in Europe alone. As a result, given the increasing need for composites across various sectors, it might be necessary to emphasize FRP recycling to fuel market growth.
Low-Quality Surface Material and Introduction of Alternatives
Typically, the recycling process degrades the material's surface quality. Since recycled fibers lack sizing and occasionally have char or resin residues left on them after the process, it is essential to consider the fiber surface's condition. Typically, residues tend to cause poor fiber-matrix adhesion. There are currently few recycling techniques that are ideal for processing carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic.
The absence of appropriate methods to recover the best of the waste material poses a difficulty, despite numerous countries in Europe and the United States working to develop better alternative recycling methods. Furthermore, it is against the law in Europe to dispose of non-biodegradable polymers in landfills, especially FRPs. Numerous EU Horizon 2020 initiatives in this area have received funding. The market for fiber-reinforced plastic recycling is expected to be hampered by these problems.
Growing FRP End-of-Life Waste Generation
End-of-life (EOL) waste generation of fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites is accelerating. However, there are few end-of-life strategies for these composites, and composite products, materials, and components are rarely intended to make it easy to disassemble, reuse, or recycle them beyond their useful lives. With little being recycled or put to other uses, landfill and incineration remain the most popular ways to deal with waste from composites. However, as the market for composites expands globally, waste production also rises steadily, necessitating the creation of effective and affordable methods to reduce composite waste. As a result, numerous businesses globally are creating newer recycling methods or recycled composite items.
A study team from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University, led by Professor Jinwen Zhang, created a recyclable carbon-fiber reinforced composite material in 2021 that could easily replace non-recyclable CFRPs in current manufacturing procedures. Delivering a conveniently recyclable CFRP composite with excellent mechanical qualities for upcoming industrial purposes could offer a long-term solution to non-recyclable composite trash.
The global fiber-reinforced plastics recycling market is classified into product type, recycling technique, and region.
By product type, the global fiber-reinforced plastics recycling market is divided into Glass-Fiber Reinforced Plastic, Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Plastic, and Others.
The Glass-Fiber Reinforced Plastic section is projected to advance at a CAGR of 9.31% and hold the largest market share over the forecast period. The most popular FRPs are glass-fiber reinforced polymers (GFRPs), with benefits like simple forming and design flexibility. Construction, energy, transportation, national security, chemical engineering, and electronic power are a few end-use industries that utilize it. As a result, the amount of GFRP waste produced likewise proliferates along with the utilization. The need for GFRP recycling is also snowballing due to government laws surrounding waste disposal, and the expansion of the end uses for recycled GFRP.
The Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Plastic section will hold the second-largest market share. Carbon fibers serve as reinforcements in carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs), composite engineered materials with organic epoxy resin serving as the matrix. Due to qualities including high tensile strength, stiffness, temperature tolerance, chemical resistance, and low thermal expansion, they are utilized in various industries, including aerospace, building and construction, automotive, sporting and consumer products, and wind. Due to the long-standing use of CFRPs in multiple sectors, the number of CFRPs reaching the end of their useful lives has been rising, which has increased the demand for recycling. Security and governmental regulations, cost-effectiveness, and environmental responsibility are the primary variables affecting the supply chain of recycling CFRPs.
By recycling technique, the global fiber-reinforced plastics recycling market is divided into Thermal/Chemical Recycling, Incineration & Co-Incineration, and Mechanical Recycling.
The Incineration & Co-Incineration section is projected to advance at a CAGR of 7.81% and hold the largest market share over the forecast period. Incineration is a thermal process that allows energy reclaimed from waste combustion heat. Heat can either be used directly or converted into electricity. This technology's drawback is the air pollution from burning FRP scrap. On the other hand, co-incineration offers both material and energy recovery. Cement kilns are employed in the co-incineration procedure for recycling. It provides combined material and energy recovery, making it a more practical and affordable solution for GFRP waste. Due to the system overload caused by the high calorific content and hazardous emissions, FRP incineration is more expensive than landfilling.
The Mechanical Recycling section will hold the second-largest share. Mechanical recycling is a method for breaking down scrap composites into smaller recyclable materials. The most established recycling method for thermoset FRP composite materials is mechanical recycling. It is regarded as the best recovery method for FRP materials that don't contain promoters and are reasonably priced. This method entails size reduction using crushing, milling, or shredding procedures to create a blend of fibrous and powdered material. This material can be recycled in a closed-loop system or used as a filler or reinforcement replacement in new composite products.
Europe Surpasses Other Regions
By region, the global fiber-reinforced plastics recycling market is analyzed across North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Rest of the World.
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Europe will command the leading market position, expanding at a CAGR of 9.4% over the forecast period. The rising demand from important nations like Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, among others, is the primary cause of Europe's dominance in the region. Landfilling is forbidden in European nations, including Germany, and the use of recycled plastics and composites is rising. These recycled FRPs are primarily used in the wind energy, aerospace, and construction industries. Germany's top energy source quickly evolves into wind energy, vital to the world's energy transition strategies. However, to guarantee a steady supply of input materials for their construction and avoid the technology's rapid growth within the context of climate action targets from creating a myriad of new environmental challenges, researchers and manufacturers are calling for a more integrated and coherent framework of sourcing and recycling operations.
The wind industry in Europe is steadfastly devoted to preserving, recycling, or retrieving 100% of decommissioned blades. This is in response to multiple top corporations in the sector announcing ambitious plans for blade recycling and recovery. Creating ecologically friendly recycling technology could be accelerated by a ban on landfills. Additionally, Italy is a player in the FRP recycling market owing to its established pilot facility and the transition toward commercialization of the other leading factories. In Italy, the Renewable Energy Catapult predicted that by 2050, 8 GW of onshore wind turbines would have been decommissioned. The number of wind turbine decommissioning is rising, which results in more FRP waste from the wind industry.
North America will likely advance at a CAGR of 9.35% and hold the second-largest market share over the forecast period. Construction activities across the region use recycled glass fiber-reinforced plastic composites because of their excellent mechanical performance and strong resistance to harsh chemical and thermal conditions. Cutting the glass fiber-reinforced plastic trash into larger pieces rather than pulverizing can also be added to concrete mixtures. US Energy Information Administration projected the annual wind turbine capacity additions in the United States to be 14.2 gigawatts in 2020, surpassing the previous 13.2 GW established in 2012. (EIA). The price of wind turbines is falling due to the development of new methods, such as using waste FRPs in incineration. Additionally, government and industry incentives have encouraged further development of wind energy. This has caused the use of recycled FRPs in wind energy to increase.