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Circular Process for Eco-Designed Bulky Products and Internal Car Parts

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ECOBULK (Circular Process for Eco-Designed Bulky Products and Internal Car Parts)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-05-31

Composite bulky materials and products are a fast-growing part of the manufacturing industry. They are strong and light which helps to reduce weight and material consumption. They are also notoriously difficult to reuse or recycle as the loss of quality and value makes it economically unattractive.

ECOBULK aims at demonstrating and implementing a new Circular Economy model for bulky composite products in automotive, furniture and building component industrial sectors, with high potential of cross-sectoral replicability and transferability to other industrial sectors, to promote greater re-use, upgrade, refurbishment and recycling of these products. ECOBULK will implement a new economy model by developing:

• design strategies and procedures for the creation of circular designed composite products;
• redesigned value and supply chains for the selected sectors to foster upgrade, reuse and recycling of products and parts and material recovery for (re-)manufacturing;
• new services and business models for the new value chain including collection, maintenance, reuse, tracking and labelling systems and an integrated Database platform which will share the value chain data between all the stakeholder including the designers, manufacturers, retailers, waste companies and end-users; and,
• demonstration of the circular design solutions by a large-scale demonstration program covering technological components at a relevant industrial scale as well as other not-technological but key components at representative demo sites engaging end-users.
The project takes an integral system approach that addresses different stages of the circular lifecycle, including the design, manufacturing, distribution/collection, new business models, end user and stakeholders’ communication platform, management and revalorisation of the current waste streams, and provides solutions that fit well together and can complete the model for real life applications.

A generic design methodology/process have already been developed for ECOBULK with an active involvement of experts from all fields. This process has started with the product (baseline) definition, followed by a series of successive and iterative steps focused on various aspects of product design and development leading to the creation final design proposals. The design framework and associated tools have been also developed and proposed for guiding the redesign activity of the demonstrator manufacturers. Finally, the consideration of different business strategies/models around the circular economy has been incorporated into the design process in order to turn the developed products and components in ECOBULK into attractive value propositions at all levels.

The new circular design products incorporate highly (re)manufacturable and recyclable materials (also developed in ECOBULK project) in order to support the circular economy objectives and strategies. The first samples of innovative materials have already been formulated, produced and tested, such as the recycled wind turbine blade Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer which is the first thermoplastic composite that incorporates recycled GFRP-waste as a reinforcing material. Other materials currently tested in ECOBULK include: bio-based polymers (e.g. PLA), natural fibre and recycled carbon fibre composites, nonwoven composites using natural and regenerated fibres and wooden particle boards integrating new more sustainable (formaldehyde-free) binders.

ECOBULK is a large-scale demonstration project that develops different pilot activities and demonstrations at different levels. The initial planning for manufacturing, demonstration and validation of the newly designed circular products have already started in ECOBULK by generating a master plan for the demonstration activities. This preliminary demo plans total 7 EU-countries, 11 demonstrators and in 21 individual demonstrations all over the Europe during years 2019-2021 within the three product sectors automotive, furniture (indoor/outdoor) and building and construction.

Transition towards circular economy requires concerted actions and good communication between all value chain actors to facilitate the flow of products, parts and materials at various stages of the product life and usage cycles. This will be maintained in ECOBULK (and beyond), by the development of ECOBULK Circular Economy platform, the aim of which the implementation of specific intelligent services and modules enabling a direct interaction to all value chain actors. The first stage of platform development has been completed and it encompassed the description and definition of software and system architecture, followed by a description of the desired behaviour of the system and modules, their specifications, requirements, functions and integration.

ECOBULK also considers solutions for collection, sorting and pre-treatments of current heterogeneous Bulky and ELV waste streams for material recovering, integration and revalorization into ECOBULK’s circular economy model. Innovative waste sorting and characterisation technologies for heterogeneous waste streams coming from current linear design approaches have been tested and validated in the project, and the suitability of the recovered materials for the integration and revalorisation into the ECOBULK’s circular economy model is currently being evaluated.
ECOBULK project will contribute to a more efficient use of resources in the automotive, furniture and building components industries, in particular but not limited to the use of plastics, fibres and wood. By 2030, ECOBULK project should allow to avoid approximately 75% of waste materials being landfilled and incinerated, save 200 million tonnes of GHG emission, and create 150,000 direct and indirect jobs compared to linear economy models in automotive, furniture and construction industrial sectors.

ECOBULK consortium includes 8 industrial partners and 10 SME’s for which a robust exploitation approach is pursued, to identify potential opportunities, markets and impacts for the technologies and tools developed. The opportunities of ECOBULK will be demonstrated throughout the entire supply and value chain: from the product design until the end of life of the product. ECOBULK will demonstrate the replicability of project technologies, processes and outcomes for circular solutions and models, which will create business opportunities for other products and sector, not directly linked with the three industrial lines targeted in the project.

To enhance the long-term impact of project results on bulky composite waste management in the EU and to increase the awareness on the project results to a broader base of stakeholders, a strong package of dissemination activities has been proposed, ranging from on-line presence with website, newsletter and social networks, to participation and organisation of events and conferences, the development of professional training and webinars. This set of dissemination activities aim at guiding future policy developments and initiatives and to facilitate a broader transition to the circular economy in the EU.