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What is carbon fibre’s environmental impact? We explore the pros and cons of carbon fibre’s high-energy production process

Carbon fibre has wound its way into every industry imaginable. From solar panels and tube fittings to wheel caps and tape – carbon fibre is the strengthening material of choice and has been for decades (this decade, especially). Carbon fibre composites, or CFRPs, possess revolutionary qualities that far outweigh their current environmental mark. But what is carbon fibre’s environmental impact? Let’s find out.

The pros and cons of carbon fibre’s environmental impact

A snapshot

  • Is carbon fibre eco-friendly? – yes and no. Continue reading about this topic.
  • Is it sustainable? – yes! Many of carbon fibre’s parts are recyclable and reusable. Industries utilising CFRPs make a point of recycling and reusing carbon fibre – and they are shared between industries.
  • Is carbon fibre environmentally friendly? As a recyclable material – yes, but the initial production process of carbon fibre is not environmentally friendly. Industries that use carbon fibre and those responsible for the production and recycling process of carbon fibre are working hard to change this.

Did you know? Scientists are even testing whether carbon fibre can be made from plant-based biomaterials like lignin instead of fossil fuels

Is carbon fibre environmentally friendly?


Carbon composites are heated to around 400 °C – 600 °C during the curing process, enabling the epoxy resin to diminish and the usable fibres to remain. Although the end result is not a fibre of the same length as the original, the process only uses about 5% of the energy that the original manufacturing process did.


The fibres are not as long as the original.


Due to its high strength and durability, carbon fibre lasts and lasts without the need for renovation or repair. The disposal of carbon fibre products is drastically minimised through the recycling process.


Carbon fibre assets take hundreds of years to decompose.


CFRP assets like wraps and sheets are extremely light, so they use less energy and do not require heavy machinery and vehicles during installation. This lessens the emissions used during a repairs or rehabilitation project.


The creation of carbon fibre is where most of the environmental damage is caused. The presence of fossil fuels always signifies that a material has an ill impact on the environment – and this is why carbon fibre-reinforced composites are not eco-friendly – yet.

The production process emits harmful toxins called petrochemicals into the air or water – you might know them as `greenhouse gases`, or gases that contribute to the `greenhouse effect`. The process currently uses 40% more energy than stainless steel. Also, the fibres themselves are produced from polyacrylonitrile (PAN) – an acrylic resin and fossil-fuel-based polymer.

Read about how the petrochemicals industry is reducing its carbon footprint


Many parts of carbon fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRPs) are recyclable and reusable – so the need for carbon fibre production is dropping.

The effectiveness of carbon fibre recycling is being improved all the time. Scientists are even testing whether carbon fibre can be made from plant-based biomaterials like lignin instead of fossil fuels

Carbon fibre is down-cycled. What does that mean?

Currently, carbon fibre is being down-cycled along with recycled. This means its parts are being ground down and remade to a lesser value than their original form. This is being improved all the time.

Is carbon fibre a sustainable material for strengthening buildings and structures?

Carbon fibre comes in several forms – some take much longer to degrade and are tougher to repurpose – thus, certain types of carbon fibre are greener than others. At CCUK, we endeavour to use low-carbon categories of carbon fibre wherever possible, ensuring the carbon footprint left by our projects remains minimal.

One type of carbon fibre that is considered `green`, is lignin-based carbon fibre – a natural resource with 50%-71% carbon content – which can be used on general applications with low thermal conductivity, high-temperature resistance, and projects that require minimal mechanical work.

Read more about greener types of carbon fibre in our recent blog

Book your FREE site visit & quote for carbon fibre strengthening today

Do you think your upcoming project will benefit from incorporating carbon fibre strengthening? Get in touch with our specialist contracting team today – we use carbon fibre in the vast majority of our strengthening and rehabilitation projects including pipes, sewage works, bridges, and buildings.

If you enjoyed this blog, read these next

4 Main Reasons Why Carbon Fibre Strengthening Adds Value to Your Projects

Is Carbon Fibre a Sustainable Material for Strengthening Buildings and Structures?

What Are Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer Composites?

Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer: Pros and Cons