A Virgin Atlantic plane flying from Orlando to London has become the first commercial flight to use jet fuel partly made from recycled industrial waste. The Boeing 747 — which landed at London’s Gatwick Airport last week — used a blend of normal jet fuel plus ethanol made from waste gases.

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“This fuel takes waste, carbon-rich gases from industrial factories, and gives them a second life so that new fossil fuels don’t have to be taken out of the ground,” Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson told The Guardian. He added that this flight was a big step toward making the new fuel blend part of the mainstream.

The flight had a fuel blend that included 5 percent of recycled waste fuel. However, Virgin Atlantic said that the sustainable element could form up to 50 percent of the blend in the future. It added that this could contribute to significantly reducing the carbon footprint of airlines.

U.S. company LanzaTech produced the fuel, and it claimed that the new blend could eventually supply up to 20 percent of the fuel in the aviation industry. If that does happen, that could lead to a 65 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuel.

Branson said that working with LanzaTech will help his company reduce its carbon emissions while also supporting industry in the United Kingdom. Virgin Atlantic is trying to get the U.K. government support to build three plants in the country by 2025. It is also asking for financial backing for LanzaTech, so the company can produce up to 125 million gallons of the jet fuel blend each year.

Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech’s chief executive, said that her company has shown that recycling waste carbon emissions into jet fuel is possible. She added that we should look at waste carbon as an opportunity, because it can be reused again and again.

Via The Guardian

Image via Joao Carlos Medau