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A future fuelled by waste?

Using waste to power planes

More and more people are taking to the skies as their preferred means of travel. But how many are wondering how the plane is getting from A to B? How many are concerned about the impact that flight may have on the planet?

Well, according to some predictions, the future might be in our landfills! Or, more specifically, waste may be able to find a new lease of life as fuel for aeroplanes. To look into this in more detail, we're joined by 8 yard skip supplier Economy to see how waste could be used as fuel.

A look at travel trends

The government is looking to invest £22m towards five new low-carbon fuel plants in the UK. Comments from the Department of Transport said that planes and lorries that have the potential to be driven by waste could use up to 90% less carbon in comparison to regular fossil fuels. 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.

But what has caused the government to choose to invest such a sum into looking for low-carbon routes for planes? In 2005, 2.14bn people travelled by aeroplane — this rose to 2.26bn 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.

By 2012, that number increased again to 3bn, and then again to 3.15bn in 2013. 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 an increase in demand comes an increase in fuel usage. 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.

Other actions

The British government’s investment plan isn’t the only thing set to help. Velocys has teamed up with British Airways to bring the waste-to-renewable-jet-fuel to life and an investment decision is expected to be announced by 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.

Hainan Airlines — China

Over in China, Hainan Airlines managed to make a 12.5 hour flight from Beijing to Chicago with 15% biofuel to 85% conventional fuel. 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.

United Airlines — America

Over in America, United Airlines have looked at biofuels from household and agricultural waste. The airline now use around 30% biofuel and 70% conventional fuel. From this, carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by a huge 60% on a lifecycle basis in comparison to conventional jet fuel.

Qantas — Australia

Further progression has been made 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%.

Lufthansa — Germany

Over in Europe, Lufthansa is also looking to make strides in eco-friendly fuels. 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.