ELG currently operates one recycling plant in western England.
The UK firm’s managing director Frazer Barnes, speaking at the Society of Plastics Engineers’ Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition earlier this month, said ELG plans to open a plant in Germany that will be operational by 2018 as well as a US plant by 2019. The location for the US plant has yet to be determined.
The global market for carbon fiber is forecast to grow at a 9.9 percent compound annual growth rate between 2014 and 2020, and reach $3.7 billion by that time, according to a market research report. Increased demand for the material from the automotive, wind energy and aerospace industries is driving the carbon fiber market growth.
The material is very durable and lightweight and because of these properties is used in everything from airplanes and cars to personal electronics and fishing poles. Carbon fiber is expected to play a major role in automakers’ efforts to reduce vehicles’ weight, which can help them achieve better fuel economy. This is becoming increasingly important as US agencies begin a mid-term review of fuel efficiency standards that aims to double cars and light trucks’ fuel economy by 2025.
The downside of the growing carbon fiber market, however, is manufacturing waste, which typically ends up in landfills.
ELG recycles all types of carbon fiber waste into materials that it says perform similarly to virgin carbon fiber but cost less and have a smaller carbon footprint. Barnes said the company recovered more than 1,000 metric tons of carbon fiber from manufacturing waste and end-of-life components last year.
Earlier this year a team of CU-Boulder researchers, in a paper published online in the journal Advanced Materials, said they have developed a cost-effective and energy-efficient process for recycling carbon fiber and producing new material that is as strong and lightweight as the original composites.