Composite materials for a circular model

There ‘Creating a sustainable and competitive economy for the European composites industryPlan was presented to European SDG Summit. The document, prepared by Leonardo and CSR Europe with the support of Bax & Company, deepens the potential of composites from the point of view of circularity in the various sectors concerned, including aerospace. It also reviews the prospects for the development and use of these materials for the green industrial transition. The Master Plan is the result of the work of the New Materials & Circular Economy Acceleratorled by CSR Europe with the support of Leonardo, which saw the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, including companies, European associations and universities.

Composite materials: a look at the figures
In this perspective, it should be noted that, in the aerospace sector alone, composite materials used for aircraft instead of traditional aluminum alloys have led to a 20% reduction in aircraft weight. A reduction of approximately 580 kilograms per aircraft translates into a fuel saving of 10-15%, leading to a positive environmental impact through a reduction of approximately 20% in greenhouse gas emissions. These figures are part of a composite materials market with an overall value in 2018 of 13.45 billion euros, which should reach 27.3 billion euros by 2026. Indeed, the high performance of materials composites has accelerated their use and, consequently, the production of waste. . It is estimated that by 2025 some 680,000 tonnes of composite waste will be produced in Europe, with a recovery plant capacity of 100,000 tonnes. This provides an opportunity to implement circular economy models.

Shared objectives for sustainable growth
Participation in the Summit of Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumoalso in his capacity as Chairman of ASD (European Aerospace, Defense and Security Association), and Renata Mele, Senior Vice President Sustainable Development, demonstrated the central role of sustainability and circularity in the company’s strategy. The Summit focused on accelerating the green transition, a key issue for the international positioning and competitiveness of the industry. The stakes are all the more important today as the EU needs greater independence in the supply of resources. These objectives are aligned with the vision of the European Commission and with the European Green Deal sustainable growth strategy, which aims to achieve climate neutral by 2050. Leonardo and the entire sector play a key role in achieving these goals. It is by promoting innovative production processes, developing technologies with less environmental impact and adopting a circular economy approach across the entire value chain – also through systemic action by stakeholders – that change necessary can be induced.

The Blueprint: from materials analysis to a snapshot of “circularity” today, to future challenges
In this context, the Composite Materials Blueprint offers a concrete contribution to the implementation of a circularity strategy and to the promotion of an efficient use of resources. The paper provides a detailed analysis of composites – types, production technologies and application areas – describing the status of these materials in terms of circularity and the opportunities and challenges presented in overcoming the obstacles of the associated sustainability model. This first step aims to involve players from the relevant sectors such as aerospace, defence, chemicals, energy and maritime in the development of an innovative, competitive and sustainable value chain in Europe.

Go to the PlanCreating a sustainable and competitive economy for the European composites industryCSR+Europe_Composite+Materials+FINAL.pdf (

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