Upcycling of polymer composites

June 24th, 2024

Presentation by Dr Thomas Loh (RMIT University)

Plastic contributes significantly to the global waste problem, including from the building and construction sector. One example is aluminium composite panels (ACP’s). These panels are fabricated by bonding sheets of aluminium onto a polyethylene-based core, and throughout the early 21st century they were installed extensively on high-rise buildings. The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, in which ACP’s contributed significantly, resulted in a blanket ban on ACP’s in many countries. Consequently, there was a near overnight need to dispose of stockpiles of ACP’s and the ongoing supply of ACP’s from building fire-safety remediation works. Like many composite materials, ACP’s are economical to put together but impractical to separate for disposal. This work presents the development of a bespoke process to efficiently and effectively deconstruct ACP’s thereby enabling both the aluminium and polymer components to be recycled.