AFRA comes up with ambitious target to improve recyclability rate of the global end-of-service aircraft fleet
Fri 9 July 2010 – The aircraft recycling industry is targeting a 90 percent recyclability of the end-of-service global fleet by 2016, announced Boeing’s Director for Airplane Environmental Performance, Jeanne Yu, at last week’s annual meeting of the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) in Las Vegas. AFRA members currently undertake the recycling of around 150 commercial aircraft a year, representing a third of aircraft scrapped around the world. However, more than 12,000 aircraft are expected to reach the end of their service life over the next 20 years as airlines upgrade their fleets to more fuel-efficient aircraft, providing both opportunities and challenges to the fledgling sector. Another target is to reduce the amount of aircraft manufacturing waste sent to landfills by 25 percent by 2012.
AFRA believes that the current level of aircraft recyclability is around 70%, which means that the remainder of the Operating Empty Weight of an aircraft is not recyclable using technologies around today. Those components that cannot be sold on the secondary market – perhaps because of market saturation – are generally disposed of. Not only does AFRA want to improve the recyclability level to 90% but says it is looking to improve the quality, and thereby achieve a higher market value, of the recyclate from those parts of the airframe that are currently recycled.
“AFRA is the only global organization committed to the environmentally responsible management of airplanes as they reach the end of their service life, and AFRA is relentlessly pursuing continual life cycle improvement opportunities,” Yu told conference delegates. “Partnerships such as AFRA create innovative models which accelerate technology development and allow industry to set challenging recycling goals to enhance environmental performance.”
She said there was a need to improve the quality of recycled aircraft composite materials and find new applications and new markets both inside and outside the aviation sector. “Recycling also makes good business sense, as the needs of the market are satisfied at lower costs,” she added.
Using recycled or recovered carbon fibre instead of ‘virgin’ fibre (pure, primary or newly produced fibre) can also help reduce manufacturing CO2 emissions by 90-95%, she said.
Yu also sees AFRA as hastening the move towards ‘closed loop’ environmental models, where airplane materials are recycled for use back into the supply chain. Another issue facing the industry is the challenge of recycling of aircraft interior materials rather than disposing of them.
With 90% of scrapped aircraft coming from the parked fleet and the forecasted growth in the number of retired aircraft, AFRA is seeking to persuade owners of parked aircraft that with the aid of developing technologies that allow more higher-valued materials to be recovered from aircraft, as well as by raising the level of higher-valued materials which return to aircraft production, residual values of their assets can be increased through recycling.
Founded in 2006, AFRA’s membership has grown to 46 companies worldwide. It has established an accreditation programme and developed a series of Best Management Practice Guides laying out best practice and minimum performance standards around airframe and engine dismantling.