Is waste set to fuel our aeroplanes?

There are more people jetting off on holiday than ever before and because of this, we’re seeing expansions at places like Heathrow Airport to keep up with the demand — but with more planes in the sky, are we looking for alternative sources of fuel?
magann /
magann /

Why are governments finally taken action?
We’re set to see an increase in the amount of fuel plants here in the UK, as the government proposes to invest £22m to create five new low-carbon entities.
According to research carried out by the Department of Transport here in the UK, both aeroplanes and lorries that could potentially be powered by waste could use up to 90% less carbon. This news comes at a time where the UK wants to become a zero-emission zone by 2040 with the removal of petrol and diesel cars and is eager to invest in environmental alternatives.

To understand the reasons as to why the government are looking to invest this figure into finding low-carbon solutions, we’ve teamed up with Reconomy who have competitive skip hire prices to analyse travel trends across the recent years.

Evidently, the number of people travelling by aeroplane has increased over time — with 2.14bn people in 2005 and 2.25bn in 2006. In 2007, the result grew significantly and stood at 2.46bn. 2.49bn was the result for 2008. However, in 2009 this number dropped to 2.48bn. Without failure, 2010 saw a higher climb as the number of people travelling hit 2.70bn — a momentous increase. In 2011, the figure increased to 2.86bn.

The amount of people jetting off finally hit the 3bn mark in 2012, but the figure didn’t stop there as in 2013 a reported 3.15bn travelled by aeroplane. This increased in 2014 with 3.33bn travelling. Although this has been increasing over time with only one drop, it is expected to rise further. 2015 saw 3.57bn travel and in 2016, there were 3.77bn travellers.

With such figures, air pollution is becoming a much larger issue that governments around the world are having to face. Aeroplanes emit particles and gases into the air which is causing a long-term effect on global dimming, climate change and ocean acidification. With more people jetting off, action needs to be taken and this has been the driving force behind the big investment, of which 70 groups are bidding for the funding.

What changes have been made so far?
Although the British government has made significant progress over the years with greater investment schemes, it has been reported that British Airways has teamed up with Velocys to bring the waste-to-renewable-jet-fuel to life — with investments being announced by the start of 2019. The waste plant used is expected to bring in hundreds of thousands of waste produce each year, which will be converted into clean-burning fuel that will later be used to help get British Airway planes off the ground. The waste that is used is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by 60%, with a 90% reduction in particulate matter emissions in comparison to traditional jet fuel.

1. Hainan Airlines in China
One airline that has made remarkable achievements is Hainan Airlines who used 15% biofuel and 85% conventional jet fuel last year on a 12.5-hour trip from Beijing to Chicago. The cooking oils, which included vegetable oils and animal fat, were taken from restaurants; and this could help reduce emissions by 50%, if used instead of normal jet fuel.

2. United Airlines in the United States
United Airlines recently used biofuels from agricultural and household waste to fly their plane, which accounted for an impressive 30% of their fuel. From this, carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by a huge 60% on a lifecycle basis in comparison to conventional jet fuel.

3. Qantas in Australia
In 2012, Qantas flew an Airbus A330, which is a wide-body jet with a twin engine, and powered it with 50% cooking oils and 50% conventional jet fuel. In 2018, Qantas hopes to achieve a flight from Australia to America with 30% biofuel from mustard seeds and 70% conventional fuel. This should reduce emissions by 20%.

4. Lufthansa in Germany
Another airline that is looking to battle the air pollution problem is Lufthansa. In 2016, it entered a contract with a company that produces biofuel from grain. Lufthansa will purchase 8 million gallons of biofuels per year until 2020, and has already done many biofuel and jet fuel testings on commercial flights.


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