Newly crowned America’s Cup champions, Oracle Team USA has announced a joint venture that will see a 2.5 tonne racing yacht recycled. The project, will take place in partnership with Boeing, the University of Nottingham and MIT-RCF, a South Carolina company that recycles and repurposes carbon fibre components.

The project will see around 1.51 tonnes of carbon fibre recycled from the ultra-light racing yacht. Speaking exclusively to about the scalability of this process, MIT-RCF’s Jim Stike, whose company will oversee the repurposing, said the model had already been applied to Boeing’s commercial planes demonstrating the potential expansion of the model:

“We’re an advanced materials company that have been working with chopped carbon fibre for eight years now. About six years ago Boeing came to us with the 787 fleet – 60 per cent of which is carbon fibre. Their problem was that, in 20 or 30 years time, when those planes come out of service, there’s no way of handling the carbon. We will reclaim that and repurpose it.” And when one reaches the scale of recycling one of the world’s largest aviation fleets, the sums paid by MIT-RCF to obtain the carbon fibre are significant. “We’re now looking into ‘de-engineering’ for huge structures, such as yacht hulls or windmill blades”, or one presumes masts, “and we can utilise the reclaimed carbon fibre.”

Team Oracle's ultra-light hull will be recycled and repurposed.

“By doing this”, Stike explains, “We’re closing the loop; we’re utilising, and finding a purpose for, a very valuable material.” But one also presumes that this process, further down the line, could also find a modest value for the composite hulls that largely populate the lower end of the size spectrum which is causing such prolonged problems for the superyacht resale market. “Right now the big carbon fibre scrap generators are the aerospace companies”, Stike said. “but there’s potential for other high value products.”

Scrap carbon fibre.

The process for the Oracle hull will involve it will being cut into 1.2m sections and the mast will be chopped into manageable pieces before it is processed. About 75 per cent of the recycled composites will come from the hull and the remaining 25 per cent from the mast. "The introduction of composites in yacht construction was a major step in our sport," said Chris Sitzenstock of Oracle Team Logistics. "Now, we have the ability to work with Boeing to take the next steps in composite recycling. We will also look to recycle carbon components remaining from the build of our yachts."

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