Recycling end-of-life airplanes is key to delivering enhanced industry environmental performance, says Boeing
Technicians prepare to recycle an airliner that has reached the end of its service life (photo: AFRA)
Fri 22 July 2011 – With more than 13,000 airplanes expected to be retired over the next 20 years, as they are replaced with newer and more fuel-efficient generations, delivering improved environmental stewardship to airplanes as they reach their end-of-life is becoming increasingly important, says Boeing. Developing innovative environmental solutions to recycle aerospace products at the end of service was part of the aerospace industry’s commitment to enhancing its environmental performance, Boeing’s Vice President for Environment, Health and Safety, Mary Armstrong, told delegates at this week’s annual meeting of the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRAA) in Washington, DC. During the event, Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer announced it is to become the latest member to join AFRAA.
In her keynote address, Armstrong encouraged AFRA members to work closely with airplane manufacturers to develop new aerospace applications for parts and materials recycled from aircraft at the end of their service lives.
Noting that Boeing is studying ways to recycle a wide variety of materials, from aircraft carpeting to carbon fibres used to create next-generation commercial airliners, Armstrong told members: “We want to work with you. We want to develop markets for recycled products together to help the aerospace industry continue to grow, continue to innovate and continue to be an environmental leader.”
Also speaking at the meeting, Dr Andy Clifton, Sustainable Development Manager at Rolls-Royce, stressed the importance of integrating end-of-life planning into the product design process.
Dr Clifton described how the engine manufacturer was investigating methodologies and technologies for evaluating likely disposal scenarios for its products that are intended to retain the maximum amount of material within the supply chain and minimise the environmental impacts associated with product end-of-life.
He said these developments have to be placed within a broader context where sustainable development is embedded into standard business practices as a response to societal and customer expectations as well as a more robust regulatory framework.
“In considering the end-of-life of aerospace products, the key issue is not simply reducing waste but ensuring the maximum amount of strategic materials is retained in the supply chain and continues to contribute to the sustainability of the aerospace industry,” he added.
Embraer becomes the third aircraft manufacturer to join AFRA, and its membership was welcomed by the association’s Executive Director, Martin Fraissignes. He said Embraer had a strong and long-standing commitment to developing environmentally responsible industrial processes and sustainable business practices, which would be a welcome addition to AFRA’s efforts to move the industry forward.
Guilherme de Almeida Freire, Embraer’s Director of Environmental Strategy and Technology, commented: “Embraer’s membership in AFRA will intensify the exchange of experiences regarding recycling and/or the final disposal of aeronautical components, as well as the technical interchange between professionals, in order to incorporate new technologies with the integrated product development process.”
AFRA was set up to focus on best practices in the environmentally responsible management of aircraft as they reach the end of their life cycles. Since its establishment in 2006, AFRA’s membership has grown to 55 organisations that collectively have dismantled over 7,000 aircraft as well as contributing to the return of several thousand more into service.