A Van’s RV-9A equipped with a Wilksch Airmotive (WAM) 120 diesel engine today completed a 500-mile flight in Australia using a blend of conventional jet-A1 fuel with 10 percent of fuel manufactured from plastic waste manufactured by UK-based Plastic Energy. Pilot Jeremy Roswell completed the “On Wings of Waste” (OWOW) flight from Sydney to Melbourne in the two-seater.
The flight culminated a four-year effort that involved promoting recycling and reusing the waste to be blended with jet-A1. The next steps would be to encourage use of the fuel option. The project is aimed at helping slow the dumping of plastic waste into the ocean.
“After years of preparation and many ups and downs, we’ve finally shown that the 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the oceans each year can be put to good use,” said Roswell. “We blended 10 percent of fuel manufactured by Plastic Energy with conventional fuel, and the flight was a dream.” OWOW organizers noted that flights from Heathrow alone could convert 21,600 tons of waste plastic from pollutant into fuel each day.
Plastic Energy used a thermal anaerobic conversion process to create the fuel.This involved heating plastics in an oxygen-free environment to prevent them from burning. This breaks the plastics into component hydrocarbons to create the equivalent of a petroleum distillate. The result is then separated into different fuels.
The process uses “end of life” plastic, typically found in the ocean or landfills. OWOW organizers estimate that 95 percent of the plastic waste is usable for jet, while the remaining 5 percent, known as “char,” can be used for fuel additives and pigments.