Italy’s first composite recycling plant planned by Boeing and partners
Agreement establishes framework for recycling aircraft composite waste into reusable materials

The Boeing Company and Alenia Aeronautica, a Finmeccanica company, are joining forces to help establish Italy’s first composite recycling facility, which will be located in Southern Italy.

Together with partners Milled Carbon (based in Birmingham, United Kingdom), Karborek (based in Puglia, Italy), and ENEA (Italian National Agency for new Technologies Energy and the Environment), the two companies have signed a letter of intent to apply their expertise and work with academia to advance industry knowledge surrounding the recycling of composite airplane parts into reusable materials for manufacturing. Financial terms were not announced.

The composite recycling facility, which is expected to be operational in mid to late 2009, will be in Italy’s Puglia region, near the Alenia Aeronautica manufacturing center and its supply chain production centers. When fully operational, the center is expected to process an average of 1,000 metric tons (1,102 tons) of composite scrap annually and add approximately 75 jobs to the regional economy.

Boeing, which is pioneering the use of composites as the primary structure on the 787 Dreamliner, and Alenia, a major 787 partner, will support the project by partnering to advance associated knowledge and technologies and reuse of recycled aircraft parts and manufacturing materials. Both companies will work together to process carbon fiber scrap material from all of the Alenia facilities and related supply chain facilities. Over the longer term, Boeing and Alenia will work closely with Italian industry and academia to develop additional markets for the reuse of the carbon fiber, which could include automotive, civil engineering, sporting goods, nautical and other industrial applications in Italy and across Europe.

Working collaboratively with Boeing, Milled Carbon has demonstrated the ability, in a pilot industrial plant, to process cured and uncured composite parts on a continual feed that extracts high-quality carbon fibers. The recycled material potentially can be used for noncritical structures such as interior linings, galley and seat parts and tools that can benefit from stronger, lighter-weight materials.

ENEA, the Italian Research Institute, has long worked with Karborek to develop recycling process technologies for the recovery of carbon and glass fiber from composite materials. ENEA and Karborek have separately developed prototypes of complementary technology.

Boeing and Milled Carbon are both members of the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA), an international nonprofit organization dedicated to developing best practices for the recycling of end-of-service aircraft and parts. The new joint venture is also anticipated to become an AFRA member and ultimately bolster the organization’s capabilities in the area of composite recycling.

Karborek, located in Lecce, is teaming with Milled Carbon with regards to the building and operation of the composite recycling plant.