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Circular Design of Composite Products: A Preliminary Framework Based on Insights from Literature and Industry

Joustra, Jelle; Flipsen, Bas; Balkenende, Ruud

Paper presented at PLATE conference 2019, Berlin.

Composite materials are an attractive material choice as they enable lightweight, low maintenance products with a long lifespan. But closing the loop for these materials in a Circular Economy (CE) is challenging, especially for thermoset composites. In a CE, products should be designed for minimal impact while preserving their environmental and economic value for as long as possible. However, design strategies for composite products in a CE are currently largely unexplored.

Insights from literature on design for a CE as well as on composites recovery are combined to create a set of design principles for composites in a CE. In addition to well-known long life, lifetime extension and product recovery approaches, literature indicates the potential value of structural recycling. Structural recycling preserves most of the functional value of the product, which is largely lost in materials recycling. Experts from composites industry were interviewed in focus groups to further explore CE strategies and design principles for a set of reference products, such as car interior components. The resulting framework connects Circular strategies to design principles for composite products and supports design of new composite products for use, reuse and recycling in a CE.

Excerpt of the framework, connecting design principles to circular strategies for composites in a Circular Economy.