As more and more people opt to travel by plane, it’s definitely time for us to consider just how these journeys are fuelled. After all, we are more conscious of the fuel used to power our cars — why isn’t the same attention given to air travel? To explore the matter further, we’ve teamed up with waste management experts and 8 yard skip hire supplier Reconomy.
Government action spurred by travel trends
Change is certainly coming for the UK’s waste industry. The government is set to invest £22m which could create five new low-carbon fuel plants, for example. 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.
Let’s take a look at the increase in passenger numbers now. 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. In 2012, the number of people travelling hit the 3bn mark, continuously increasing in 2013 where 3.15bn people travelled. 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.
More passengers means more air journeys, which means more air pollution. 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.
Waste to fuel options
The UK government initiatives aren’t the only plans in place. 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.
Using 15% biofuel to 85% conventional jet fuel, Hainan Airlines completed a 12.5-hour flight from Beijing to Chicago. This is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to greener flying. 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.
America has also been exploring greener fuel. Using biofuels from agricultural and household waste, United Airlines 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.
Australian airline Qantas is also seeking a more environmentally-friendly jet fuel. 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 achieved a flight from Australia to America with 10% biofuel from mustard seeds known as brassica carinata.
Over in Germany, Lufthansa airline is looking to grains for its furl. 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.