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Novel Project Addresses Recycling of Composites Structures

Novel project addresses recycling of composites structures

The Innovate UK funded EMPHASIZING project: Enhancing Material Properties of Recycled Glass Fibres Through Sizing, targets the wind energy-to-automotive sectors to address the challenge of recycling composite structures currently consigned to landfill or incineration.

TWI Industrial Member Gestamp, in the UK is one of the innovatively minded companies making up the project consortium for EMPHASIZING, with their involvement on the project the latest in a succession of successful previous collaborations with TWI.  Gestamp is a multinational specialised in the design, development and manufacture of highly engineered metal components for top vehicle manufacturers. It develops products with an innovative design to produce lighter and safer vehicles, which offer improved energy consumption and a reduced environmental impact. Gestamp is continuously innovating in product/process and material development, and sees hybrid material structures as an important milestone in developing advanced technological parts for application on future OEM platforms.  Also on the consortium, and additionally having worked with Gestamp on a previous collaborative project, is Brunel Composites Centre (BCC), a Brunel University London-TWI Innovation Centre that was established in 2016, and specialises in novel composites processing and joining technologies applied to industrial environments.


Composite materials are found in most industrial sectors, mainly due to their outstanding material properties and lightweight benefits. Today, some 2.5 million tonnes of composite material are used globally in the renewable energy sector. Glass fibre reinforced plastic (GRP) represents the majority of the £54.5 billion global market for composites, and it is estimated that there are 12-15 tonnes of GRP per megawatt of power.  Over one million tonnes of GRP are produced annually in Europe, and the growing use of glass fibres across industry has resulted in increased concern about how the associated waste is disposed of. One example is the wind energy sector, which is expected to decommission 40,000 to 60,000 tonnes of composite materials in the next two years. Therefore, it is vital that composite waste is recycled using a cost-effective methodology with minimal environmental impact.

This was the thinking that led to BCC AND TWI’s Advanced Composites and Adhesives (ACA) section conceiving the initial idea that would subsequently evolve as the EMPHASIZING project. Once BCC and TWI had formed the project consortium, they asked TWI’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) team to assist with the different stages required to move EMPHASIZING from a technical concept through to a live project.  TIM’s remit includes: scanning potential grant (public) funding calls (competitions) and matching them to new concepts; bringing together SMEs, larger companies and research and technology organisations (RTOs) with TWI’s Technical sections, Innovation Centres and Industrial Members, onto project consortia with complementary skills, knowledge and expertise; and supporting consortia members through the concept development, proposal writing and bid submission stages, as required.

For EMPHASIZING, TIM discussed the concept with the consortium partners and identified the funding call, reviewed and quality checked their proposal document, and undertook submission of the final proposal to the Innovation Funding Service portal. Following their application to an Innovate UK Smart Grant competition, the consortium was successful in winning funding for the project.

The project partners are Lead Partner B. & M. Longworth (Edgeworth) Limited, EMS-CHEMIE (UK) LTD, Ford Technologies Limited, Gen2plank Limited, Gestamp, the Brunel Composites Centre (Brunel University London) and TWI.


  • Create upcycled, sized glass fibres
  • Demonstrate EMPHASIZING's reclamation of high-yield, high-quality fibres via the fabrication of relevant automotive parts
  • Develop, test and optimise the EMPHASIZING system for wind and maritime end of life materials
  • Establish a viable value chain for the exploitation of the reclaimed, upcycled GRPs
  • Evaluate the optimal End-of-Life (EoL) route for the automotive components
  • Conduct impact and life cycle assessment (LCA) to validate investment in EMPHASIZING
Brunel Composites Centre (BCC)
Brunel Composites Centre (BCC)


The methodology behind EMPHASIZING introduces ‘pressolysis’, a novel recovery method and technical step change from state-of-the-art processes such as pyrolysis and solvolysis. This will enable commercial innovation through high-yield reclamation of top-quality, clean, free from residue, reusable fibres, with retained length and properties almost akin to virgin materials. Through innovative re-sizing, the aim is for these fibres to take on properties similar to carbon and a cost closer to glass.

An early project milestone was accomplished when partner B. & M. Longworth used their DEECOM® process to reclaim clean glass fibres from decommissioned wind turbine blades (Figure 1).  An output of 100% glass fibre, completely free from the polymeric residue or debris usually associated with wind blade construction, was achieved (Figure 2), and this was confirmed by materials characterisation carried out by TWI and BCC.

BCC is now developing a coating system, using ultrasonic nano-particle coating equipment, for the re-sizing (upcycling) of the fibres.

The reclaimed material from the EMPHASIZING process will be used to make a Ford chassis part, the manufacture of which, including further design optimisation, prototyping and simulations as well as testing, will be undertaken by Technical Manager on the project Gestamp, who has developed leading edge optimisation tools for lightweight chassis parts, and has a reputation as a highly experienced supplier to the automotive industry.

Project partner Ford is leading the LCA data modelling and characterisation that will be carried out at each stage of the manufacturing process, with support from BCC. Gestamp who will use their supplier facilities to demonstrate circularity and scalability of the proposed solution during the compounding and parts fabrication stage, and this will also feed into the LCA.

Benefits and Conclusion

On completion, EMPHASIZING will have realised a novel reactor that can effectively recycle EoL wind and marine parts at a low cost, with low impact and carbon footprint, and in an environmentally friendly way that does not negatively impact social equality, diversity and inclusion. It will also remove the need for harmful chemicals during composites recycling and reduce the requirement for incineration, in turn diverting composites from landfill. The clean glass fibres that result from the recycling are then ready to be deployed in the manufacture of brand new components.

The aim is then to demonstrate the practical and commercial viability of the solution by using the upcycled materials in the mass production of parts for the automotive sector, where lightweight materials are being used in increasing amounts.  This will provide a low cost, sustainable and readily available source of composites.

The new parts manufacturing achievable as a result of EMPHASIZING will feed into industry’s plans for a more sustainable future, as it reviews the opportunity to use composites as a possible ‘go-to’ material in the automotive sector, supporting its transition to a new generation of vehicles.

EMPHASIZING will also contribute to the UK’s waste reduction and composite circularity as the process’s disruptive and innovative technology has the potential for application across a wide number of sectors. Additionally, the reintroduction and reuse of expensive GRP could deliver significant economic benefits to end-users and manufacturers.

EMPHASIZING has received funding from Innovate UK under Grant Agreement No. 10035094.


If you would like to make direct contact with any of the EMPHASIZING consortium partners, please send an email to stating which partner(s) and we can put you in touch.

In addition, if you are interested in joining consortia for publicly funded projects, please also email to

Figure 1. S Segment of GFRP from end-of-life wind blade.
Figure 1. S Segment of GFRP from end-of-life wind blade.
Figure 2. Clean glass fibre reclaimed via DEECOM®.
Figure 2. Clean glass fibre reclaimed via DEECOM®.

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