Are Natural-Based Composites Sustainable?
Article dans une revue avec comité de lecture
This paper assesses the aspects related to sustainability of polymer composites, focusing on the two main components of a composite, the matrix and the reinforcement/filler. Most studies analyzed deals with the assessment of the composite performance, but not much attention has been paid to the life cycle assessment (LCA), biodegradation or recyclability of these materials, even in those papers containing the terms “sustainable” (or its derivate words), “green” or “eco”. Many papers claim about the sustainable or renewable character of natural fiber composites, although, again, analysis about recyclability, biodegradation or carbon footprint determination of these materials have not been studied in detail. More studies focusing on the assessment of these composites are needed in order to clarify their potential environmental benefits when compared to other types of composites, which include compounds not obtained from biological resources. LCA methodology has only been applied to some case studies, finding enhanced environmental behavior for natural fiber composites when compared to synthetic ones, also showing the potential benefits of using recycled carbon or glass fibers. Biodegradable composites are considered of lesser interest to recyclable ones, as they allow for a higher profitability of the resources. Finally, it is interesting to highlight the enormous potential of waste as raw material for composite production, both for the matrix and the filler/reinforcement; these have two main benefits: no resources are used for their growth (in the case of biological materials), and fewer residues need to be disposed.
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