Aircraft are often abandoned or sold for scrap at the end of their approximately 20-year lifespan, creating potentially hazardous waste. Although some plane parts can be recycled, the process is inefficient. Metal alloys, for example, can be difficult to separate, and currently only a limited amount of high-quality materials can be recovered. The EU-funded AIMERE (Aircraft metal recycling) project aimed to make aircraft recycling more efficient and profitable. It also aimed to limit the environmental impact of dismantling end-of-life planes. AIMERE first assessed legislation, potential environmental problems, and current methods for dismantling and recycling aeroplanes. Researchers then investigated ways in which the entire process can be improved. To do this, AIMERE collected information on aircraft composition to map areas containing materials and alloys of interest. Using this map, researchers improved methods for dismantling the plane by determining which parts contain the most valuable metals, and how best to recover them. In addition, researchers mapped the presence of dangerous materials such as radioactive matter in old aircraft. This will ensure that all hazardous waste is accounted for during the dismantling and recycling process. To ensure that aircraft recycling is profitable, AIMERE identified valuable uses for recycled metals, particularly in the manufacturing industry. For example, aluminium can be used by car, construction and bicycle industries. The end of this project saw several outcomes that may revolutionise the aircraft industry. AIMERE's improved dismantling and recovery process is being used by a major aircraft recycling company to recover high-value parts like tungsten counterweights and titanium beams. Lastly, the project's recommendations for future aircraft design will be used to construct aircraft with improved recyclability and better environmental safety.
Recycling, aircraft, hazardous waste, metal recycling, aircraft recycling, environmental impact