Update: Boeing wins 'high achiever' among sustainability leaders for innovating carbon fiber recycling

National Association of Manufacturers recognizes Boeing for its commitment to sustainability.

BNN

Friday, October 9, 2020

Update: The National Association of Manufacturers saluted Boeing’s innovative carbon fiber recycling initiative as the highest achiever among sustainability leaders on Thursday at their virtual gala. 

“This is a tremendous achievement of this team who turned their vision of recycling carbon fiber into a reality,” said Chris Raymond, Boeing Chief Sustainability Officer. “I applaud all of our Boeing employees who are embracing sustainability efforts and making a difference in our industry and in our communities each and every day.”

Original story from Aug. 13: The National Association of Manufacturers honored Boeing with a prestigious sustainability leadership award Thursday for creating a market for recycled aerospace-grade excess carbon fiber and diverting up to one million pounds of solid waste to landfill annually.

“This recognition demonstrates Boeing’s ability to weave sustainability into all we do by moving from the world’s largest consumer of aerospace-grade composite without a plan for waste to today being the only company able to recycle 100% of its excess carbon fiber,” said Bryan Scott, vice president, Environment, Health & Safety.

Boeing was recognized for sustainability excellence for innovating a way to recycle aerospace-grade carbon composite.

Boeing generates revenue by selling the excess, which is transformed into laptop cases, car parts, rail-car undercarriages and other products.

A year after launching a partnership with United Kingdom-based ELG Carbon Fibre to recycle excess aerospace-grade composite, Boeing has trained employees and implemented carbon-fiber recycling at 11 manufacturing sites across the globe. Most of the excess fiber comes from Australia, the Puget Sound region in the Washington state, and Salt Lake City manufacturing sites. Boeing has plans to train companies in its supply chain on the process, starting later in 2020 in Japan.

 “After a decade working with academia and industry through technical excellence, we now have a solution to the excess carbon fiber composite waste challenge. Removing the cured resin without damaging the valuable aerospace-grade carbon fiber frees it up to provide the same performance attributes we value to non-aerospace applications”

--Pete George, associate technical fellow, Product Development

Other large materials industries, such as wood and aluminum, have developed their waste into value-adding materials for secondary markets based on their understanding of their materials, products and technical communities. The same had to be achieved for the reuse of excess carbon fiber to be successful at scale. 

“The power of one Boeing means achieving what you thought was impossible at the onset and that is what this award means to me,” said Cindy Chan, environmental engineer, Environment, Health & Safety. “This process is not easy but we worked across the enterprise from operations to engineering to facilities to make our production system more sustainable.”

Boeing is proud to join the recent winners of the Sustainability Leadership Award including Oracle, Dow Chemical, Johnson Controls, Airbus and Cisco.

By Monica Zimmer

Thinking sustainably means thinking about waste as food 

Boeing’s Sustainability Leadership Award for recycling aerospace carbon fiber waste is an example of how the circular economy – or circularity – works. 

Sustainability experts say that all "waste" should become "food" for another process: either a by-product or recovered resource for another industrial process or as regenerative resources for nature, such as compost. This newer way of thinking shifts away from the traditional economy that has emphasized a different kind of production model, one that has focused on “take, make and dispose.” 

Proponents of the circular economy suggest that a sustainable world does not mean a drop in the quality of life for consumers and can be achieved without loss of revenue or extra costs for manufacturers. The argument is that circular business models can be as profitable as linear models, allowing consumers to continue enjoying similar products and services.