Austrian Airlines to turn used plastic cups into crude oil

22 Mar 2019 by Jenni Reid
An Austrian Airlines flight attendant collects a plastic cup

Austrian Airlines has partnered with Vienna Airport and oil and gas company OMV to send its used plastic cups to be converted into new fuels and plastics.

Cabin crew collect the cups separately to other waste and pass it on to the airport. It is then sent to a disposal company to be cleaned and shredded before going to OMV’s ReOil pilot plant at its Schwechat Refinery.

The waste then undergoes thermal cracking to produce synthetic crude that can be turned into fuel or other raw materials for plastics.

OMV said it has been exploring the potential of used plastics since 2011, and expanded operations in early 2018. It has been trialling the collaboration with Austrian Airlines since January.

OMV said 100 kilograms of used plastics can produce 100 litres of synthetic crude. Austrian Airlines did not say how much plastic waste it currently produces.

OMV plant

The OMV plant

“The exceptional properties of plastic as a material make it hard to imagine life without it,” said Thomas Gangl, OMV’s Senior Vice President, Refining and Petrochemicals.

“In the ReOil plant, we are able to turn the AUA drinking cups into synthetic crude and then process them into fuel or back into plastics. Our OMV research project allows us to close the circle and reduce waste. These joint efforts send a clear signal of how important conserving resources is to both of our companies.”

As public concern about plastic consumption grows, several airlines have pledged to reduce their usage. Qantas says it will send 75 per cent less waste to landfill by 2022, while Virgin AtlanticAmerican Airlines, Delta and Portugal’s HiFly have all pledged to reduce their plastic usage.

Austrian Airlines already sends various materials used on-board for recycling, including glass bottles and newspapers, while its parent company Lufthansa Group says it carriers are all developing ideas aimed at increasing sustainability.

The average passenger generates 1.4 kilograms of waste per flight, according to the International Air Transport Association.

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