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WindEurope, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the European Composites Industry Association (EuCIA) have presented their recommendations for the recycling of wind turbine blades in their new report ‘Accelerating Wind Turbine Blade Circularity’. Today around 85 to 90% of wind turbines’ total mass can be recycled. But turbine blades represent a specific challenge. Made from complex composite materials to allow for lighter and more durable blades, they require specific processes for recycling. WindEurope estimates that 14,000 wind turbine blades will be decommissioned in Europe by 2023.
 
The report’s key conclusions are:
 
  • There are various existing technologies to recycle wind turbine blades, but these solutions are not yet all available at industrial scale and economically competitive.
  • Today, the main technology for recycling composite waste is through cement co-processing. WindEurope, Cefic and EuCIA strongly support increasing and improving composite waste recycling through the development of alternative recycling technologies. This requires increased research and innovation funding.
  • At the same time, existing treatment routes such as cement co-processing must be deployed more widely to deal with the growing waste streams.
  • The best strategy for wind turbine blades is one that combines design, testing, maintenance, upgrades, and the appropriate recycling technology to ensure the maximum value of the material is retrieved throughout its lifetime. This requires a better understanding of the environmental impacts associated with the choice of materials during design and with the different waste treatment methods at end-of-life.
  • Finally, composite recycling is a cross-sector challenge. An active engagement from all the composite-using sectors and authorities is required to develop cost-effective solutions and strong European value chains.
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