Recycling of waste glass fiber reinforced plastic with microwave pyrolysis


The EU Commission has partly funded this project aiming to find sustainable solutions for recycling glass fibre reinforced plastics used in wind turbine blades and other products.

This project is finished as of 2012-06-30.

The EU Commission has partly funded this project aiming to find sustainable solutions for recycling glass fibre reinforced plastics used in wind turbine blades and other products. EU Commission project code "LIFE07/ENV/S/000904". The project period: 2009-01-01 - ´2012-06-06.


Project summary

Wind power is one of today’s fastest growing sources of energy. In the EU alone, wind power accounted for 21.4 % of the total power installations in 2011. Being mainly made of glass fibre reinforced plastics; wind turbine blades are robust, with an average lifetime of 20 years. The dismantling of old wind turbines has already begun worldwide. While the metals in the turbine generator parts are quite easily recycled, the glass fibre reinforced plastics from rotor blades are more challenging. Today, the material may be energy recovered or used as a fuel in cement kilns. However, the energy content is low and the ash content high. On a European level, glass fibre reinforced plastics from gas cylinders, boats, wind turbines etc. are often placed in landfill, even though the organic content exceeds permitted limit values. As today’s existing alternatives for recycling glass fibre reinforced plastics waste do not include material recycling, Stena Metall’s Research & Development department has started the search for new recycling methods. With financial support from the European Commission through the Life+ Glass fibre project, Stena Metall and its project partners have explored alternative methods for recycling the materials, such as:

  • Recovering the glass fibre and plastics separately through microwave pyrolysis
  • Producing a synthetic gas from the pyrolysed thermo-set plastics
  • Producing a reinforcement or filler for new thermo-sets or thermo-plastics using the recycled glass fibres
  • Producing a construction material for covering landfills, road construction etc. using a grinded glass fibre reinforced material

Results indicates that using the material as a construction material would be possible as an intermediate solution, whilst producing recycled fibres and gas by pyrolysis to reach a more long-term solution requires more development and large production volumes. The next step after the project will evolve sustainable business solutions, as well as identify further research and development needs.

Want to learn more?

You can download the Layman's report to read an extensive summary of the project. You can also order a printed copy of the report by contacting the project management. Download Layman's report here.

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Märta Bergfors
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