Australian pilot Jeremy Rowsell is set to break new boundaries for alternative energy by flying from Australia to Britain in an airplane powered entirely by plastic waste. Rowsell’s “Wings of Waste” Cessna plane will fly from Sydney to London via Asia, the Middle East, and Europe using fuel refined from “end-of-life” materials such as plastic bags and other refuse that would otherwise wind up in landfills.
The fuel that propels Jeremy Rowsell’s plane will not be made from traditional hydrocarbons, but from diesel refined from recycled materials. Waste plastic will be shipped to an Irish company called Cynar plc, which will convert the material into aviation-grade diesel.
The fuel is created by carefully heating plastic waste in the absence of oxygen. This process, which is called pyrolysis, creates a fuel that is essentially the same as petroleum. Despite this fractional distillation the fuel still produces emissions when burned – although they are slightly cleaner than traditional transport fuels.
So why is Rowsell performing the stunt? To raise awareness that plastic waste can be turned into everyday useful things. “You look down at that garbage in the Pacific, and you see the result of what it’s doing,” said Rowsell, referring to the ecological scourge that kills animals that ingest it, entangles others, and leeches toxins into the food chain. “I’m doing this because I believe that unless we do something to give back to the planet, we’re stuffed.”