Apart from industrial settings, not everyone uses epoxy resin on a regular basis.
But if you’re a crafter who specializes in unique home decor projects, or have any other specific business that uses epoxy resin frequently, you may be wondering if you can recycle it.
After all, it’s a liquid before being used and has a texture similar to glass when it hardens.
What can you do with that leftover or hardened resin that you no longer have use for?
Unfortunately, most epoxy resins can’t be recycled, especially from a consumer standpoint. But, there is a new epoxy resin product that is capable of being recycled.
In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of recycling epoxy resin and learn more about what epoxy resin products can be recycled.
1. What Is Epoxy Resin?
Epoxy resin is a liquid compound that when cured, forms a hard, composite material.
It is used as an adhesive and bonding material in several industries, including the manufacture of airplanes, boats, and recreational sporting equipment such as snowboards and bicycles.
Epoxy resin also has uses in the electronics and electrical industry, where it is used to make insulators and transformers among other things.
It’s also used for painting, coating, and sealing, particularly for protective coatings and powder coatings that are found on household appliances.
Finally, epoxy resin is used in crafting to make unique jewelry and furniture. It can even be used to repair cracks in glass and porcelain.
2. Is Epoxy Resin a Type of Plastic?
Epoxy resin is a type of plastic known as thermoset plastic.
Thermoset plastics are plastics that have to be mixed together either in production or before initial use in order for a particular reaction to happen to form the plastic.
In the case of epoxy resin, the cured composite material is actually made of two components, the liquid epoxy resin itself and a hardener.
The two components have to be combined in order for the finished product, known simply as epoxy, to serve its purpose effectively and form the hard, plastic material.
3. Is Epoxy Resin Recyclable?
Thermoset plastics such as epoxy resins are generally not recyclable.
They are hard and very durable plastics that are meant to be heat-resistant.
Once the hardening process has taken place after mixing the two components together, it is irreversible, so it’s virtually impossible to separate them again.
Because of this, they can not be broken down and recycled easily because they have very strong chemical bonds that hold them together.
However, due to the many applications of epoxy resin combined with more awareness to be eco-friendly, there have been developments in the manufacture of thermoset plastics that increase their recyclability while still being strong and durable.
One such type of epoxy resin, in particular, is known as Recyclamine and it has been around for about a decade.
Recyclamine developed out of a need to make a product that was just as effective as traditional epoxy resins, but more sustainable at the end of its life.
The change comes not in the epoxy resin itself, but in the hardener component.
Essentially, Recyclamine hardens the same way that traditional epoxies do.
But under conditions brought about by recycling, the thermoset plastic molecules are converted to thermoplastic molecules so that they can be recycled more effectively.
Basically, any type of epoxy resin that uses Recyclamine as a hardener can be recycled, but epoxy resin that uses the traditional hardener can not.
4. How Is Epoxy Resin Recycled?
All plastics are technically recyclable, but they aren’t all worth the cost and effort to recycle due to the amount of processing that they would have to undergo.
If traditional epoxy resins were to be recycled, it would usually be done through mechanical means in which the materials are crushed.
But, there would really be no way to turn them into something that is usable again because it would essentially mean separating the resin itself from the hardener.
This is very difficult to do, so even epoxies that are recycled mechanically usually end up going into a landfill.
Epoxy resins can also be “recycled” through pyrolysis, which essentially turns them into fuel through a refining process which causes the plastic resin to be degraded and most of the time, unrecoverable.
The great thing about epoxies with Recyclamine hardeners is that they can be recycled without the use of pyrolysis.
Instead, they are recycled like thermoplastics because the thermoset molecules are broken during the melting process, allowing the resin to be recovered and reused.
5. Where Does Epoxy Resin Get Recycled?
Where epoxy resin gets recycled just depends on the particular type of resin.
If it’s going to be recycled through pyrolysis, it will go to a pyrolysis plant to be turned into fuel.
However, doing so has the potential to release harmful chemicals into the air, so it must be burned under strict regulations.
Recyclamine epoxy can likely be recycled at any facility that can recycle other types of plastic.
Industries that use a lot of epoxy will be aware of where to take their unused or cured epoxy.
6. How Often Can Epoxy Resin Be Recycled?
If epoxy resin undergoes pyrolysis, it can only be recycled once. This is because it is burned and the resin component can not be recovered.
For Recyclamine, it is unclear how many times it can be recycled as it is still a fairly new product that still isn’t widely used.
7. Is Recycled Epoxy Resin’s Quality Lower?
Yes, epoxy resin’s quality is lowered if recycled through pyrolysis because burning the epoxy off degrades the fibers.
Usually, it is lowered to a point that you can’t even create a new product out of it, so you technically can’t make recycled epoxy resin.
Supposedly, with Recyclamine, the fibers come out of the recycling process having the same quality that they had before they were recycled.
When Recyclamine is recycled, the fibers come out as a thermoplastic that can then be turned back into a thermoset plastic and reused.
8. What Products Can Be Made From Recycled Epoxy Resin?
Recyclamine is the only type of recycled epoxy resin that can be used to make new products.
Aditya Birla Chemicals is a global company that acquired the use of Recyclamine in 2019.
They use the Recyclamine epoxy resins in the following ways:
- Creating the blades used for wind energy
- Coating sports equipment such as surfboards
- Structural components for vehicle doors, panels, and chassis
9. How Do You Dispose of Epoxy Resin?
For a consumer, it isn’t likely that you will be able to have your epoxy recycled even if you do take it to a recycling facility.
Most of the time, you will have to just throw cured resin away and take liquid resin to your local waste disposal facility so that they can dispose of it properly.
10. Is Epoxy Resin Hazardous Waste?
Cured epoxy resin is not considered to be hazardous waste and can be disposed of with other trash.
With uncured epoxy, the liquid resin is considered to be hazardous waste while the hardener may be considered corrosive.
This is why it is necessary to take uncured epoxy to your local waste disposal service, as they are knowledgeable about how to dispose of it without causing harm to the environment.
11. Can You Put Epoxy Resin Down the Sink?
Epoxy resin should not be put down the sink.
It can cause damage to your pipes, especially the hardener that is potentially corrosive as previously mentioned.
But even the resin can also pollute water supplies as well as harm the animals that live there.
12. Does Epoxy Resin End up in Landfills?
Because there isn’t really any other way to dispose of it, most epoxy resin does end up in landfills.
Plus, even if the epoxy resin isn’t a stand-alone product, it is used as a coating for many applications.
A lot of products that have epoxy resin on them as a coating or an adhesive also end up in landfills because the epoxy can’t be separated from them during recycling.
13. Is Epoxy Resin Biodegradable?
Thermoset plastics such as epoxy resin are typically not biodegradable.
However, a new study has shown that specific bacteria found in the soil near an epoxy manufacturing plant are capable of degrading epoxy if that is the bacteria’s only source of carbon.
But what is important to note is that biodegradation of epoxy would only happen if both of these bacteria were present, and even certain amounts of epoxy proved to be toxic to the bacteria being studied.
As a result, the biodegradability of epoxy is dependent on certain conditions, and even if those conditions are met, the process would still take a very long time – especially if there are large quantities of epoxy that were left to biodegrade.
As of right now, for all intents and purposes, we can still consider epoxy to be non-biodegradable.
14. Is Epoxy Resin Bad for the Environment?
Epoxy resin is bad for the environment for several reasons.
The first reason is that, like most plastics, epoxy resin is created as a result of refining crude oil, a non-renewable resource that could cause pollution during the production of it.
The second reason is that, as is the topic of this article, neither the cured or liquid resin is recyclable.
The only way to dispose of it is by sending it to a landfill or through pyrolysis (which isn’t the most eco-friendly “recycling” method either).
Finally, liquid epoxy resin is considered to be a hazardous material.
It contains harsh chemicals that can pollute waterways and harm animals if disposed of improperly.
All in all, there is really nothing about epoxy resin that is good for the environment.
15. What to Do With Leftover Resin?
If you use epoxy resin for art projects, you probably have some that is left over.
And once you’ve mixed it with the hardener, you can’t pour it back into the original container.
Obviously, you can’t pour it down the sink either, as we learned earlier, so there are really only two choices that you have.
The first option is to let the leftover resin cure completely, and then dispose of it by throwing it away. But, of course, this isn’t the most eco-friendly choice.
That leaves us with your second option, which is to find another craft that you can use it for.
One of the best things to do is to invest in some silicone molds that are different shapes, such as hearts, stars, or even letters of the alphabet.
The reason for using silicone is that the epoxy won’t stick to it as it starts to cure.You simply pour the leftover resin into the mold and let it cure.
You can make some awesome magnets, keychains, or even jewelry this way.
This video gives an example of some of the crafts you can make, but an Internet search is sure to give you endless more ideas so that you aren’t creating more waste by just throwing the leftover epoxy away.
2 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Epoxy Resin
Although epoxy resin is not recyclable or eco-friendly, there are some alternatives that you can use if you are trying to be more eco-friendly.
EcoPoxy is designed for the lumber industry and people who use woodworking as a hobby to create furniture using epoxy resin.
It is made with renewable resources without the use of toxic chemicals.
2. Entropy Resin
Entropy Resin has created a whole line of eco-friendly epoxy resins that are made from plants.
One example is their CCR Bioresin that is made from 30% bio-based content and is a USDA Certified BioPreferred Product.
It is designed for crafting as well as casting and coating applications.
Since epoxy resin is a thermoplastic, it is not recyclable, especially not by the consumer who uses it for crafting purposes.
It’s also not very good for the environment, due to being made from crude oil and toxic chemicals.
There are only two ways to dispose of it, which is to throw it away if it has cured or take it to a disposal service if it is uncured.
But, there are ways that you can reuse leftover resin, or you can make an even more conscious decision by switching to an eco-friendly resin that is just as effective as traditional versions.