Plastic fuel powering planes and ocean clean up
Insurance professional, pilot and founder of On Wings of Waste, Jeremy Rowsell, is looking to change the way we use and think about plastic.
On Wings of Waste is a novel initiative that began in 2011 and has the goal to reduce the amount of plastic waste that is dumped into our oceans. It aims to do this by putting a value on end-of-life plastic, showcasing how it can be transformed into fuel instead of being discarded into our waterways.
In collaboration with a company called Plastic Energy, this refined fuel has already been proven to work. Earlier this year Jeremy solo piloted an Vans aircraft RV9a that ran on the plastic fuel, from Sydney to Melbourne.
This proof-of- concept flight showcased that the 10% solution, where 10% of plastic fuel is blended with 90% conventional diesel fuel, is a viable option.
With the flight’s success and the backing of acclaimed naturalist, Sir David Attenborough , Jeremy said that this is just the beginning.
“An airline could take that up [the 10 % solution fuel] and take it through the certification process.
“If it could work for a plane it could work for a boat, it could work for a car, for a train, tractor piece of mining gear,” said Jeremy.
Sir David Attenborough
After 10 years worth of work Plastic Energy produced this unique fuel. The process used is called thermal anaerobic conversion (TAC) where the plastic is placed in a oxygen-free environment and through a method of melting and condensation refinery, the fuel is created with no burning or emittance of harmful toxics.
By the fuel being refined more than once to add the 10% solution, Jeremy said they found that while flying, there was 70% less emissions compared to normal fuel.
Along with this the aircraft only used 16 liters of fuel an hour compared to the 40 liters an hour needed when using conventional fuel.
Jeremy explains that with this breakthrough and the innovation in the aviation sector this process and fuel out-put will grow more efficient, all the while tackling the issue of oceanic plastic dumping.
“If we could go to Nirvana now and find that power source that powers everything then absolutely we will go there now but here is a major issue around plastic and here is a potential way of cleaning it up,” said Jeremy.
In a 2016 analysis by Project MainStream found that by 2050 the amount of plastics will outweigh fish in our oceans.
“We would love to say that within one generation we would be able to change people’s attitudes towards plastic because if we don’t do that in this generation, then the generations that come after us, they are going to inherit a planet that is so choked with plastic,” said Jeremy.
Jeremy views plastic as an ‘apex predator’ in the ocean.
More than 50% of the earth’s oxygen from minuscule organisms in the ocean called plankton. These organisms are also the main food source for the ocean’s fish and worryingly they have been filmed ingesting plastic, directly affecting our food chain system.
“It’s not just that plastic that goes through our food chain, it is also other chemicals in the ocean that have attached themselves to that plastic,” said Jeremy.
It is estimated that there are around 51 trillion micro plastic particles in the worlds’ seas.
By giving a value to end-of- life plastic, Jeremy believes it can change the way plastic is viewed and used by companies, governments and individuals. And with this change of perception could inherently lead to ‘turning the tap off’ on plastics being dumped into our rivers and seas.
Where to from here?
To showcase the fuel’s viability on a larger scale, Jeremy is in discussion for organizing solo flight across America. Along with these international ambitions, there will also be upcoming activities where communities can get involved in and be able to see first-hand the capabilities of this initiative.
With a lot more to come, stay up to date with On Wings of Waste follow the official Facebook Page.
You can learn more on how you can get involved here.
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