Port Angeles launches new composite recycling center

Glenn Farley reports

Port Angeles, Wa – On Monday Washington Governor Jay Inslee turned over a shovel of dirt to start construction of the new Composite Recycling Technology Center near this city's airport. The shovel was made from recycled composite waste from Janicki Industries, which makes composite aerospace parts.

Every year, it's estimated 2 million pounds of composite material ends up in the state's landfills, much it from aerospace companies as there is very little option to recycle it. The industry would like to change that, especially as the use of composite materials is only expected to increase dramatically.

What is composite? Well, It's a lot of things. A fiberglass boat could be considered composite, as it mixes the strength of glass fibers embedded in a plastic resin. But it's aviation that's one big growth area for carbon fiber composites.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is mostly carbon fiber composite, and the wings of the new 777X will be composite as well. Carbon fiber composites mix high strength carbon fiber with resins that are typically built up in layers, kind of like plywood, and then those layers are fused together under heat and pressure to form super strong light weight parts, stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum. The automotive industry is also rapidly increasing the use of composite materials.

The use of lightweight carbon fiber composites in aerospace is considered environmentally sound, as the material helps cut carbon emissions. Airliners can burn 20 percent less fuel than their metal counter parts.

But disposal of composite leftovers from manufacturing today and worries about what happens 30 years from now when carbon fiber airplanes begin retiring in large numbers is a driver behind the Port Angeles Composite Recycling Center.

It is the center's job to come up with new uses for recycled composite waste. The composite tape used in aerospace has a shelf life, meaning if it's not all used up there's no place for it to go other than the landfill. But that tape can be used to make other parts, and research is well underway to find better more energy efficient ways to recycle it.

Peninsula College will move its Advanced Manufacturing – Composite Technology training program to the site of the CRTC. Peninsula's program will help retrain workers from the region's declining timber industry. Washington State University is helping research how to better recycle materials.

It's all put together by the Port of Port Angeles and The City of Port Angeles, along with Peninsula College, as an economic redevelopment project with a two million dollar grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration along with another one million from the State of Washington's Clean Energy Fund.


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