Long-haul flights ‘could be powered by household waste’

Household waste could be turned into jet fuel under a proposal to reduce CO2 emissions in aviation.

University College London’s (UCL) plan involves building plants near landfill sites to convert their contents into fuel for airliners.

The idea won British Airways’ BA 2119 Future of Fuels challenge to power a long-haul flight for at least five hours while producing zero CO2 emissions.

UCL estimates its proposal could deliver 3.5 million tonnes of jet fuel each year, resulting in a reduction in emissions equivalent to taking more than 5.5 million cars off the road.

Dr Massimiliano Materazzi, a research fellow at UCL, said: “We were so excited just to make it through to the final, but to receive the top prize is overwhelming.

“This is evidence that airlines are taking this challenge seriously and are starting to actively engage with academia to find sustainable solutions.

“We look forward to progressing our concept which will hopefully see the development of the fuel of the future.”

The prize for winning the competition was £25,000 and invitations to present the proposal to the board of British Airways’ parent company IAG and sustainability summits in New Orleans and Montreal.

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz said: “There is a huge opportunity for the UK to be a global leader in sustainable aviation fuels.

“We know that there is a future for electrification, a pathway for organic household waste to sustainable jet fuel and this competition addresses what other pathways there could be to de-carbonise aviation.

“This winning proposal from UCL is incredibly exciting and we look forward to exploring it with them.”

Government climate advisers the Committee on Climate Change said on Thursday that the UK should cut greenhouse gases to zero by 2050.

Any remaining pollution by that date from areas including aviation will need to be “offset” through measures to capture carbon such as planting tree, it added.