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Plastic power: Cessna 172 to be fuelled by recycled plastic

Feb. 28, 2013, Sydney, Aus. - Fuel produced entirely from 'end-of-life plastic' plastic waste will be used by a single-engine Cessna 172 aircraft, for a 10,500-mile flight from Sydney to London in July.


February 28, 2013
Carey Fredericks

Operated by a British pilot Jeremy Rowsell, the flight will be initially powered by 1,000 gallons of aviation-grade fuel produced from approximately 5 tons of plastic waste such as packaging and wrapping that cannot be recycled any further.

Irish company Cynar will develop the fuel through a process called pyrolysis, where the plastic is thermochemically decomposed at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen.

Pyrolysis is also used to turn biomass into fuels such as biochar and syngas, and although this fuel has been tested in cars, it has never been tested in the flight and is in the early stages for use in aircraft engines.

About one ton of petroleum-based plastic can be converted into 900 litres of diesel, according to Cynar.

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The plane will fly over Asia, the Middle East and the Europe at an altitude of 5,000 feet and is expected to reach London after travelling for six days, covering 1,500 miles a day at a speed of 185 kmph.

The plastic waste will be sourced from the countries where the flight is scheduled to make stops along the way and shipped to Cynar.

Provisional stops are scheduled for 16 locations, including Bundaberg, Australia; Bali and Medan, Indonesia; Chang Mai, Thailand; Chittagong, Bangladesh; New Delhi, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Rhodes, Greece; and Nice, France.

Jeremy Rowsell said that the trip has been planned to increase awareness of new eco-friendly methods to fly, and reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfills globally.

Rowsell was quoted by The Telegraph as saying that if this plan works out, it could resolve some major environmental issues.