Last week Trek, well known for their bicycles, announced a plan for recycling carbon fiber. After a three month trial, Trek is now recycling all of its US-produced carbon fiber scrap with partner Material Innovation Technologies. Trek is planning to recycle 54,000 lbs of carbon fiber that would have otherwise added more bulk to our landfills. The carbon fiber is coming from a number of sources including all warranty frames, frames and parts that have been tested or broken in testing, uncured trimmings, and out-of-spec molded parts.
In an interview on BikeRadar with Trek’s media man, Eric Bjorling, recycling carbon fiber is still a difficult thing to achieve
“Different fiber types, different resin types, varying part size, shape, and thickness, are just some of the challenges that complicate recycling efforts. Collection, sorting, transportation, reclamation, reuse and the costs associated with each of these also play into the complication of recycling this material.”
The recycled material doesn’t have the same strength properties as they would new, but the bits can be used to reinforce other parts and can even be used as fillers for automotive tires and asphalt. It seems like this would be a good way to get material for use in Forged Composite. At this time none of the material is going back into bicycle part development for Trek, but I’m sure they have the R&D in place to develop something down the line.
One of the interesting pieces of information is that recycling carbon fiber for Trek is not a cost-cutting measure. In fact, it will cost Trek more money to recycle carbon fiber as it adds cost and time to the manufacturing process. Trek is quoted as doing this because it’s the right thing to do.
We’re always interested in learning more about the latest technology in carbon fiber recycling. If you are in the industry or have further insight about new developments, please be sure to comment below.