Could Your Next Flight Be Powered By Landfill?

Aeroplanes emit huge amounts of CO2 - bio diesel made from converted waste is set to change that.

British Airways wants to halve its CO2 emissions by 2050. How? By filling up with fuel made from household rubbish.

Author Laura Wagener:

Translation Laura Wagener, 09.25.17

It’s the unfortunate truth that so many of us like forgetting about when holiday time comes around: Travelling in an environmentally-sustainable way usually means completely avoiding flights – however crazily cheap they may be – and opting for an overland route instead.

Flying anywhere requires huge amounts of kerosene, which is made up of around two thirds carbon and one third hydrogen. When it’s burned, the carbon binds with the oxygen in the atmosphere, releasing huge amounts of CO2. Extracting and transporting petroleum – which kerosene is extracted from – is a huge cause of polluted waterways: just one litre of petroleum is enough to poison one million litres of precious drinking water.

Now British Airways wants to do something to challenge the aircraft industry’s negative ecological image and is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. Working together with renewable diesel and jet fuel specialists Velocys, they want to turn British household waste into clean-burning, sustainable alternatives that can be used to fuel a part of their fleet.

From Landfill to Green Jet Fuel

BA wants to convert household waste that otherwise would have ended up in landfill – including nappies, and plastic containers and packaging – into clean-burning, sustainable fuel. It’s a win-win situation, as it means not only less petroleum-based kerosene being burned, but also a chance to sensibly recycle a part of the 22 million tons of rubbish that are produced in the UK each year.

The plan is to set up a series of plants that will convert household waste into jet fuel. The first of these will produce enough to power all of British Airways’ flights from London to San Jose and New Orleans. And there are plans to supply more and more of BA’s aircraft with sustainable fuel in the future too.

The project might sound pretty small for now, but this kind of fuel produces around 60 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than standard kerosene, meaning ut it could see up to 60,000 tons of CO2 saved each year.

If the project is a success, it could mark the start of a general switch to more sustainable fuel sources for air travel. A previous attempt at a waste-to-jet-fuel initiative – the Green Sky Project – was scrapped after failing to receive sufficient government support. Let’s hope that this one manages to (excuse the pun) actually take off.

This article is a translation by Marisa Pettit of the original which first appeared on RESET’s English-language site.

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