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Develop bio-based solutions to recycle composites


Develop bio-based bonding materials for composites to promote the separation of these composites into their components and thus make them more recyclable.

The scope of this topic is to develop degradable bonding materials for composites, and to design and develop adequate materials for composites themselves to maximise their recyclability.

The scope of this topic includes attempting to recycle multilayer fibrous materials that are used in many market applications, including the construction industry. Proposals should include EPR considerations for a sustainable end of life of these materials.

The scope also includes: (i) novel research into the origin of fibre materials used in composites; and (ii) searching for the optimum combination of bonding materials to maximise the recyclability of composites.

Since the recyclability of materials can only benefit from the availability of suitable recycling facilities and capabilities, proposals must include a description of a system/method to process the recyclable material.

Proposals are also expected to draft guidelines for collecting and directing the recyclable materials to these facilities. These guidelines must also include optimal ways for handling and pre-treating (if needed).

Proposals should address all the requirements for RIAs shown in Table 3 of the Introduction of the 2020 Annual Work Plan.

The technology readiness level (TRL) at the end of the project should be 4-5 and not exceeding 5. Proposals should clearly state the starting and end TRLs of the key technology or technologies targeted in the project.

It is considered that proposals requesting a contribution of between EUR 2 million and EUR 5 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The full recyclability of composites through the effective separation and recovery of their components is still an issue. This is mainly due to the adhesives used to bind the different layers and materials together. The fossil-based bonding components that are currently used cannot easily be separated from the other components, nor can they be recycled together with the matrix material.

Industry can improve the recyclability of composites by designing bio-based bonding materials that will decompose [1] under specific conditions (e.g. pH, temperature, microorganisms). These new bonding materials will replace fossil-based counterparts in composites and allow multilayer plastics and composites to be recycled more easily.

A useful concept when considering recyclability is ‘extended producer responsibility’ (EPR) [2]. EPR makes manufacturers of composites – or any product – responsible for the entire life cycle of the product, especially for the take-back, recycling and final disposal. EPR is crucial for creating a sustainable and circular bioeconomy. EPR will be an important input to some quickly expanding application areas, such as 3D printing of cellulose-based materials, which offers new opportunities for regional industries.

The specific challenge is to increase the recyclability of composites.

[1] See remarks on biodegradability in the Introduction of the 2020 Annual Work Plan.



  • contribute to KPI 1 — create at least one new cross-sector interconnection in the bio-based economy;
  • contribute to KPI 2 — set the basis for at least one new bio-based value chain;
  • contribute to KPI 5 — validate at least one new bio-based material;
  • contribute to KPI 8 — validate at least one new or improved processing technology reflecting the ‘TRL gain’ since the start of the project.


  • improved end of life of composites, by reducing the amount of such materials diverted to landfilling or incinerating;
  • reduce the amount of resources (materials, energy) and time required to separate composite materials into their constituting elements (before recycling);
  • contribute to the EU’s 2050 long-term strategy for a climate-neutral Europe by replacing fossil-based material with bio-based, renewable material.


  • reduce the amount of resources (materials, energy) and time required to separate composite materials into their constituent components (before recycling);
  • show with documented experimental validation that the performance of the new bio-based bonding agents is at least comparable with fossil-based counterparts in the target application(s).

TYPE OF ACTION: Research and Innovation action.