How Do We Recycle Aircrafts & Why Does It Matter?

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Last month we started with our series on green diligence in the travel industry. This month we take it a step further by addressing another aspect of this important initiative. More specifically, we’re having a look at how aircraft materials are recycled, and why it matters that this process is facilitated as efficiently as possible.

Aircraft components, the fuselage in particular, are constructed from rare elements that are bound as alloys by means of very expensive, time-consuming manufacturing processes. So, what you're looking at in terms of impact on the environment and our natural resources, is a lot of invasive mining, run-off water and energy expenditure during the manufacturing of the materials required to build an airplane. As such, it only makes sense to recycle these materials appropriately once an aircraft is no longer airworthy.

At the moment the good news is that up to 75% these fuselages are being recycled. However, the process could be facilitated in a much more efficient manner. Currently, the materials are recycled collectively, as opposed to separating the various alloys. What this means in practical terms is that the metal will be processed and used as a lower-value metal, rather than being put back into circulation as usable aircraft components.

Fortunately, this is due to change under patronage of the European SENTRY project, by means of an initiative called the Clean Sky programme. They are hard at work to ensure that recycling processes are managed in a way that circulates previously used aircraft components directly back into manufacturing. By separating the constituent materials, they are able to reuse it in the construction of new fuselage panels. Funding for the project is coming directly from the EU, via the Ik4 R&D Alliance. This is wonderful news for the aviation industry, since it will cut down on a lot of unnecessary loss of valuable materials. Seemingly small changes like these require navigation through an immense amount of red tape, so while it may seem like the most obvious solution for an on-going problem, we have celebrate breakthroughs like these when it happens. It is only through the hard work of environmentally-conscious businesses and governing bodies that greater awareness of our impact on the planet becomes a reality.

Keep your eye on the blog in coming months, as we discuss more travel-related eco initiatives and how supporting companies with sustainable principles improves the way we all do business.

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