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Fibereuse Tech: innovative circular solutions for recycling and reuse of GF composites

On May 16th, 2023, Fibereuse Tech S.r.l., an innovative start-up and spin-off of the Politecnico di Milano, was founded by four founders, three of whom belong to the Mechanical Department, namely Marcello Colledani, Associate Professor, Marco Diani, Assistant Professor, and Davide Delfrate, research fellow, and Giacomo Bonaiti, an industrial expert and co-owner of Rivierasca Spa.

The entrepreneurial idea originates from the European project FiberEUse (GA No. H2020-730323-1), coordinated by Professor Marcello Colledani, which has demonstrated large-scale circular value chains based on recycling and reuse of end-of-life composites into high-value-added products. With a funding of 9.8 million euros within the Horizon 2020 program and the collaboration of 21 partners from 8 EU Countries, FiberEUse integrated various solutions and technologies over 4 years using a holistic approach, developing 20 demonstrators in different sectors (from sports to design, from furniture to construction, and automotive), showcased in a high-impact exhibition at Milan Design Week 2021.

The project arose from a significant industrial need. Composite materials are materials composed of a polymer matrix and a reinforcement (typically fiberglass or carbon fiber). Due to their excellent mechanical properties, low density, high tensile strength, and excellent corrosion resistance, these materials are widely used in various sectors, from transportation and construction to wind energy. However, despite these advantages, they pose a problem: when they reach the end of their life cycle, there are no robust industrial solutions for their sustainable and economically viable treatment. Currently, they are disposed of in landfills (where still possible), used for energy recovery through incinerators, or used in low-value-added applications such as co-processing with cement.

Building on the results achieved to address this issue in the FiberEUse project, Fibereuse Tech S.r.l. aims to bring innovative solutions to the market for applying circular economy principles to the composite materials sector, with a demand-driven cross-sectoral approach.

Fibereuse Tech S.r.l. implements a technology based on a cyber-physical system for continuous control and optimization of the mechanical crushing process, with a specific focus on fiberglass recycling. This system was developed by Marco Diani during his doctoral studies and was validated during the project. Reversing the traditional recycling chain, the system is demand-driven, optimizing the process based on the properties of the final product that will incorporate the recycled material. The physical level, composed by a cutting mill and an online particle analyzer, communicates with the cyber level, including a software based on stochastic models, which maximizes the amount of reusable material while minimizing process costs. The software receives input data from a dimensional particle analyzer and provides the optimal process parameters for the shredder to produce granulated material with the best possible dimensional distribution according to the specifications required by the final application.

In addition to the technology, Fibereuse Tech S.r.l. benefits from over twenty years of experience of Eng. Giacomo Bonaiti in recycled composite material reprocessing technologies, as well as the knowledge acquired during the FiberEUse project and a network of companies in the sector built over the years.

The entrepreneurial idea behind Fibereuse Tech S.r.l. was presented at the 2021 edition of Switch2Product, winning a grant of €30,000 from Camera di Commercio di Milano Monza Brianza Lodi and gaining access to the acceleration program organized by PoliHub, which facilitated the project's growth and the establishment of the company, leading to the patent application in December 2022. Furthermore, Fibereuse Tech won the special "Sustainability" prize of €25,000 from Startcup Lombardia during the 2022 edition and, along with other innovative start-ups, represented Lombardy and the Politecnico di Milano at the National Innovation Prize (PNI) 2022, receiving several recognitions and appreciations. In 2023, the start-up was selected for various start-up programs, including the acceleration program of EIT Manufacturing.

With its core business in technology and leveraging its expertise, Fibereuse Tech S.r.l. offers an integrated service for enabling the circular economy in the fiberglass sector, promoting the adoption of innovative technologies and the integration of actors in the current value chain of composite materials.

Fibereuse Tech S.r.l. has already received endorsements and assignments from industrial actors, indicating a strong interest in recycling in this sector. Collaborations and research for new synergies with other Italian start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises are also underway, with the intention of expanding operations abroad in the coming years, based on the idea that End-of-Life products should not be a problem but can be a resource.