“Approximately 700 aircraft are retired each year and this amount is only growing, and it’s anticipated that in the next two decades about 15,000 aircraft will be retired,” says Hans Craen, executive director at the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, a global organization for developing and promoting safe and sustainable practices for recycling and disposal. Of those, around 85-90% of the contents of a retired aircraft is reused or recycled. ”

The growing scale of aircraft disposal is a consequence of airlines upgrading their fleets with more fuel-efficient and environmentally compliant planes. According to Airbus’s latest market forecast, by 2038 it’s anticipated that 1,100 aircraft will be retired annually, and over the next 20 years, $2 billion will be spent on aircraft dismantling. “There are parties around the world that buy old aircraft, cherry-pick, sell and profit from some of the components, and the rest is waste — or becomes an environmental problem,” Koen Staut, CEO of Aerocircular N.V., a Belgian aircraft upcycling business, tells CNN Travel. “They’re not interested in doing something with the rest.”

When Staut set up his company in 2016 he didn’t want to be number 106 on the list of aircraft teardown companies that sell bits and bobs of plane paraphernalia on eBay. Instead, he posed the question: What if there could be a destination for all of the leftover material that other parties are not interested in — the discarded pieces such as the fuselage (the main tubular body of the plane) and the interior sidewall panels?

“These are materials that nobody wanted, except for crushing them together, and bringing them back as low-grade aluminum alloy for cola cans,” says Staut, who aims to push the percentage of airplane parts recycled or upcycled from the current 85-90% all the way up to 100%. He also wants to ensure that the second life of the parts fully exploits the quality, value and durability of the materials. “Alloys that are in the fuselage structure and the aircraft skin are the most valuable aluminum alloys that exist today. We thought it was a pity to downgrade these materials, and that’s why we started our company.”

To read the full story, visit https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/retired-airplanes-upcycling-recycling/index.html.
Author: Paul Sillers, CNN
Photo: Aerocircular