Wings Magazine

Pilot flies 500 miles on wings of waste

Campaigning pilot Jeremy Rowsell has made history by flying a light aircraft more than 500 miles from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia, using conventional fuel blended with 10% fuel manufactured by the U.K.’s Plastic Energy, from plastic waste.

January 16, 2017  By Plastic Energy

The unique ‘On Wings of Waste’ (OWOW) flight in a Vans aircraft RV9a has proved that end of life plastic waste can be transformed from a pollutant into a viable alternative jet A1 fuel and can also be used for any diesel engines.

Dubbed the “10 per cent solution” the ‘On Wings of Waste’ team’s campaign to inspire people to recycle plastic waste has taken four years to get off the ground.

The four stage proposition is: re-cycle – persuading the public to support for a recycling; re-use – transforming fuel from plastic waste to be blended with Jet A1; re-fuel – airlines adopting a 10% blend of fuel derived from plastic waste, and rescue – pollution of the world’s oceans is slowed down and eventually halted.

“After years of preparation and many ups and downs we’ve finally shown that the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the oceans each year can be put to good use.” Said Jeremy, who arrived in Melbourne last week. “We blended 10 per cent of fuel manufactured by Plastic Energy with conventional fuel and the flight was a dream.”


The revolutionary project came about after Jeremy witnessed first-hand from the air, pollution on land and sea, and recognized the significant danger posed by ever increasing plastic waste.

His concern about the environment and the consequences of an aviation industry reliant on toxic and damaging fuels gave him the drive and determination to test out a solution.

“Plastic breaks up into small particles, mixing with the plankton at the ocean surface. Plankton is at the heart of the food chain and provides us with more than half the oxygen we breathe – our oceans keep us alive.” Says Jo Ruxton, part of the OWOW team and one of the producers of ‘A Plastic Ocean’, a film highlighting plastic pollution to be released on Jan. 20.

“We can’t yet safely remove plastic particles from plankton that lives in the ocean, so we must stop dumping plastic waste in the ocean. There are estimated to be 5.25 trillion particles of plastic floating – mainly at the bottom – of the world’s seas.”

Jeremy’s flight could have a profound effect on the aviation industry. A 747 aircraft on a 10,000 mile flight burns 36,000 gallons of fuel and 33% per cent of airlines’ operating costs are spent on fuel. If 3,600 (UK) gallons of that fuel was sourced from plastic waste it would be the equivalent of 18 tonnes of waste plastic that might otherwise be dumped in the ocean. Factor in the 1200 flights a day that are made from Heathrow, and approximately 21,600 tonnes of waste plastic would be transformed from pollutant to fuel – every day.

The fuel, produced by Plastic Energy, uses end of life plastic, normally found in garbage patches in the ocean and landfill sites, where it takes hundreds of years to degrade the waste into recyclable material. 95% of the end of life material is usable for diesel fuel and the remaining 5%, known as ‘Char’ is a solid used, for example, for fuel additives and pigments.

“Jeremy’s flight is a tremendous opportunity to showcase how plastic waste can be put to productive use instead of thrown away to pollute the oceans or despoil the land. We are delighted to be supporting this adventure.” Said Carlos Monreal, president and CEO, Plastic Energy.

Plastic Energy use a process called TAC (Thermal Anaerobic Conversion). Plastics are heated in an oxygen-free environment to prevent them from burning, and then broken into their component hydrocarbons to create the equivalent of a petroleum distillate. This can then be separated into different fuels. As there is no burning of the plastics, but rather a melting process, there are NO toxic emissions released into the environment.

Jeremy’s flight, supported by Tony Loughran, from Zerorisk International, who has put him through a series of survival courses including underwater escape training, hostile environments awareness and sea survival training, and fellow chief pilot and advanced flying instructor Chris Clark of Five Point Aviation, ought to change the mind-set of airlines and aviators across the world.

Tony, with Jeremy, has also started to roll out an educational campaign with a lecture programme in schools in Australia building a groundswell of support for OWOW.

World renowned Naturalist Sir David Attenborough has backed the OWOW project saying: “The Wings of Waste flight, I hope, will bring the attention of the world to this great solution that is there waiting to be taken if only we can get the support of people to do so.”

Jeremy and the ‘On Wings of Waste’ team are looking for support from the general public and other investors to build a recycling plant in Australia which, they hope, will help lead to a change in culture and attitude about how we dispose of single use plastic.


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