Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


February 13, 2023


In Knoxville, Tennessee, small business Carbon Rivers has created a process to turn industrial and end-of-life composite waste into sustainable materials for next-generation manufacturing. The company’s mission is to divert composite waste sent to landfills by using innovative and sustainable solutions for the wind energy, automotive, marine, and building material industries.

Carbon Rivers won the 2022 CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Award for Small Business of the Year for their entrepreneurship and positive impact on the economy and their community.

We visited their facility recently to learn more about their work.

The company has created a process that breaks down, for example, decommissioned and end-of-life wind turbine blades and turns them into glass fiber composite materials that can be reused in boats, cars, or the next generation of wind turbines.

First, wind turbine blades go through industrial shredders to cut the blades down into smaller pieces, like a woodchipper. Then, the pieces get run through a pyrolysis machine that creates a re-usable glass fiber material for a genuine circular economy.

Morgan says it’s very difficult to recover glass fiber without doing damage to the actual fibers. Carbon Rivers’ process produces glass fibers comparable to new glass fibers.

One glass fiber product they are able to create is a glass fiber non-woven mat or surface veil, which can go back into wind turbine production manufacturing, or a variety of composite building materials.

“It’s quite itchy,” Morgan says. “But nevertheless, they’re clean and mechanically intact fibers.”

Through this process, Carbon Rivers has brought to commercial market the first ever fully-circular economy for glass fiber composites.

Carbon Rivers is instrumental in turning what was once a waste stream into a re-usable, high value resource. It also helps save space in the local landfill and provides carbon credits to industry partners.

Read more about Carbon Rivers’ story on CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website.

The Dream Big Awards

The Dream Big Awards program honors the achievements of small businesses and highlights their contributions to America’s economic growth. Learn more about the award categories, prizes and application information.

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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