Second life

Tony Seville, director at the Aircraft Interior Recycling Association (AIRA) discusses why the industry must embrace aircraft interior recycling

At AIRA (Aircraft Interior Recycling Association), we are long-term researchers of recycling and sustainability of aircraft interiors and its materials.

We all really need to take the responsible approach to this and deal with them properly.

Over the years we have worked out a number of different ways that really stand out to find the highest material recovery rate. We continue to look at getting as much recyclable material out of the interiors as possible. This is really important for our clients to know what materials we can take out of the aircraft interiors that can be recycled, getting the maximum use out of AIRA as a specialised dedicated company to recycle aircraft interiors from the manufacturing process through its lifecycle and through to the end of life.

Here are some startling facts and figures for you to think about, and how we are helping aircraft interior manufacturing and airlines reduce their carbon footprint.

In the past 18 months, AIRA has recycled over 130,000kg and saved almost 300,000kg CO2 from the manufacturing process in the UK. One company, one sort of material, and this is low due to just coming out of the pandemic and supply chain problems. It would normally be double that figure. The CO2 saved is a benefit to the manufacturing company in various ways which will be included in their ESG reports.

After many years of our research and the introduction of our new software system, Q Intelligent Systems, we can now very accurately identify and calculate an airline’s carbon footprint reduction per aircraft, which can amount to many thousands of kilogrammes of materials recycled and also millions of tonnes of CO2 to be offset from their own emissions should the airline implement a simple strategy with us. And it’s not only the airline and its passengers that benefit – it’s the OEM that supplies the interior components and the whole supply chain behind it, if done correctly.

Material analysis

We recently carried out a material analysis for an airline customer that wanted to look at the waste they were producing and landfilling from different cabin interior components over a period of seven years and then multiply that by the number of aircraft in their fleet.

After going through the analysis and imputing all the data, it became very clear that our industry is possibly unaware of the negative impact they have with the materials currently used but also how quickly we can turn this into a positive for airline clients and their passengers without them having to be sustainability specialists and trying to re-invent the wheel with materials that have a higher carbon footprint than the materials we already have, and that cannot be recycled from either the manufacturing process or end of life.

An airline with 100 narrowbodied aircraft could recycle over 475,888kg of materials over the life span of the aircraft, saving in the region of 2,518,600kg CO2 which is the equivalent of 5,672,522.52 passenger airmiles. It’s also the equivalent of 533,881kWh which would power 62,882 homes for a whole day, and the equivalent of planting 119,928 trees. Again, the CO2 saved is a benefit to the airline in various ways which will be included in their ESG reports.

It has become a more significant issue since the world’s aircraft fleet size is expected to increase from 25,900 to 49,405 aircraft between 2019 and 2039.

While the more established markets of Europe and North America are predicted to increase by around 76 and 42 per cent respectively, the Asia Pacific fleet is expected to increase by about 139 per cent to 18,770 aircraft in 2040.

This feature was first published in MRO Management – June 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.

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