Waste fuel to reach new heights

A single-engined aircraft is set to fly from Australia to the UK using fuel from plastic waste.

The Cessna 172 will fly 10,500-miles (16,900km) from Sydney to London in July this year, with experienced Flying Doctor and aerobatics pilot, Jeremy Rowsell, at the controls.


A Cessna 172 Image: Josh Beasley

Never tested in the air before, the aircraft will be fuelled with 1,000 gallons of aviation-grade diesel refined exclusively from melted-down “end-of-life”, non-recyclable plastic that would otherwise end up as highly polluting landfill.  The plastic includes domestic packaging and wrapping waste.

The six-day journey will involve Rowsell flying a tight schedule of some 1,500 miles a day at a speed of about 115mph - roughly 15 hours of daily flight.  The small plane will fly across Asia, the Middle East and then Europe at an altitude of 5,000ft – significantly lower and slower than commercial long-haul passenger flights, which generally cruise at altitudes of 40,000ft at around 550mph (885kph).

Stopovers on the journey will be far from relaxing, with a requirement to collect five tons of discarded packaging and waste, reclaimed from local rubbish dumps. The plastic will then be shipped to Cynar, the Dublin-based refining company, that will help process the waste into aviation-grade diesel.