Plastic: from oceans to the air

Flight companies, engineers and environmentalists are working hard to make air travel sustainable through plastic recycle.


During flights passengers are given a huge amount of single-use plastic items, from cutlery to food and earphone packaging. Plastic is practical, hygienic and cheap. Too bad that it is also one of the major threats of our planet.

According to International Air Transport Association, in 2016 flights passengers themselves generated 5,7 million of plastic waste, and most of them ended up in landfills or incinerators. It is expected that by 2030 that this amount might increase up to 10 tonnes a year.

Global sensibility toward this issue is growing rapidly in these years, so flight companies, together with engineers and environmentalists, are searching for a way to make air travels safer for our environment.

After an extensive performance evaluation process, Stratasys’ s Antero 800NA technopolymer finally passed Boeing Quality Management System Requirements for Suppliers examination and has been added to Qualified Product List (QPL) as material for aircraft components’ s 3D printing.

Antero 800NA is a PEKK (polyetherketoneketone) based polymer, specifically processed for additive manufacturing through fused deposition modelling (FDM), which makes it able to withstand higher temperatures than traditional products used for additive manufacturing. Because of its elevated chemical resistance and fatigue requirements, it is the first material from Stratasys qualified and adopted by Boeing for its aircrafts building.

“Boeing has recognised the tremendous utility of Antero to meet applications that could not have been 3D-printed before” said Stratays Aerospace vice-president Scott Sevcik. “Additive manufacturing has tremendous benefits for simplifying aerospace supply chains both in original equipment and MRO, but robust materials for meeting challenging flight requirements have been needed”.

The Antero family of materials includes also Antero 840CN03, which is an electrostatic dissipative (ESD) variant. Stratasys will provide these materials for the Stratasys F900 and Fortus 450mc 3D printers and as a material option for on-demand customers through Stratasys Direct Manufacturing.

Boeing is the first OEM to approve Antero 800NA, but Stratasys has got other aerospace customers, such as Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Marshall and Senior Aerospace. Also, many aircraft interiors suppliers use Stratasys’s 3D printers to produce low-volume, custom features for premier cabins.

On Wings of Waste is the name of English environmentalist Jeremy Roswell’s four year project, which result is the realization of a biofuel made from plastic, in collaboration with Plastic Energy in London. In 2017 a Vans RV9a, a two-seat prop plane for tourism, flied more than 800 kilometres from Sidney to Melbourne by using a special biofuel made with processed plastic picked up from oceans. “After many years of preparation and ups and downs, we can finally demonstrate that 8 million tonnes of plastic discarded in the ocean every year can be successfully reused.” Said Roswell, who drove the plane.

This project comes from the observation of pollution’s devastating effects on oceans during the environmentalist’s travel flights. It is not a coincidence that World Economic Forum expects that by 2050 plastic waste in the oceans will weigh more than all the fishes. For this reason, Jeremy Roswell decided to find a way to turn most of that plastic into fuel.

Plastic is turned into biofuel through an anaerobic thermal conversion (or pyrolysis) process conducted by Plastic Energy. Plastic get heated in a chamber without oxygen in order to avoid combustion and to generate toxic emissions. If this process were developed in industrial scale, air transport could be transformed with a decisive positive impact on environment. According to Roswell’s study, if the 1200 daily flights from Heathrow airport used that biofuel, they would recycle 21.600 tonnes of plastic every day.

Sources:

https://www.open.online/2019/07/10/troppa-plastica-a-bordo-degli-aerei-come-le-compagnie-provano-a-ridurla-prima-che-sia-tardi/

https://www.repubblica.it/ambiente/2017/01/14/news/l_aereo_vola_per_800_km_con_un_pieno_di_plastica-156027242/

https://www.polimerica.it/articolo.asp?id=24690

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