Sustainability is a hot topic of conversation these days across all different industries. One of the industries of concern is aerospace and recycling aircraft no longer in use. This is a crucial discussion area—it can make a huge difference in reducing waste with the numerous materials used to produce aircraft.
Today, we’ll explore topics around aerospace scrap, including:
- Environmental impact
- Sustainable solutions
- Economic benefits of aerospace scrap removal
Understanding Aerospace Scrap
Let’s get started with an understanding of what aerospace scrap is. As you might have expected, aerospace scrapping is the inevitable process of recycling an aircraft when it’s no longer in use. It involves the recovery of precious metals to be reused for a number of other purposes.
Aerospace scrapping is vital as it contributes to the reduction of waste and the conservation of many different valuable resources.
Types of Aerospace Scrap
There are many different parts of an aircraft that can be recycled for future use. However, most in the industry come from aluminum, nickel alloys, composite materials, and titanium.
Many precious metals can be used, including:
Every precious metal has unique properties that make it ideal for scrapping. For example, some will have high conductivity. On the other hand, some will have excellent corrosion resistance.
Platinum is a particularly great material for its ability to withstand high temperatures. You’ll often find it in the production of jet engine parts.
There are many steps involved in recovering these precious metals, including collecting, sorting, and processing each of the metals to help remove any impurities.
The Environmental Impact of Aerospace Scrap
Perhaps the biggest reason to scrap aerospace parts comes from the incredible environmental impact it has.
Here are some of the most impressive direct effects.
1. Resource depletion
The more we create new materials and use them to develop new products, the less we have in terms of resources. Resource depletion is a considerable concern, especially when it comes to precious metals considered rare.
Scrapping is a much-preferred method to produce new materials for this reason. It’s also a lot more cost-effective for manufacturers. Win-win!
2. Pollution and landfill waste
Scrapping is considered to be an environmentally responsible practice. It allows for reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. It also reduces the time, energy, and cost savings put towards scrapping rather than handling waste that could have been recycled otherwise.
3. Carbon footprint
Along with resource depletion, pollution, and landfill waste, aerospace scrap contributes to the reduction of the industry’s carbon footprint as a whole—it allows for less energy to be used. Not to mention, impressive savings in resources used to produce new materials. Carbon footprint is a huge factor; reducing it can promote overall sustainability.
Sustainable Solutions for Aerospace Scrap Removal
The environmental benefits of aerospace scrap removal are outstanding which makes implementing these processes as sustainable solutions desirable.
But what exactly are those solutions?
Responsible handling and recycling
Aerospace scrapping isn’t something that just anyone can do. It requires skill and knowledge to do it correctly.
You can generally break down the process of aerospace scrapping into two parts: dismantling and demolishing.
Dismantling involves a crew of aviation mechanics who go in and remove the valuable parts for recycling. Crews then sort and tag them so they can go where needed.
At this point in the process, the aircraft still has its certification.
The demolishing part of the process also involves a crew of aviation mechanics. They will use standard building demo equipment to take apart the rest of the aircraft and dispose of it.
The aircraft will lose its certification during this process phase, and the aviation regulations will no longer apply.
It’s essential to follow responsible handling and recycling in aerospace scrap removal.
Repurposing and upcycling
There are so many different ways to repurpose aerospace scrap. For example, the aluminum alloys scrapped from aircraft can be used as stiffeners and flaps for a new aircraft.
Manufacturers can also use this material for purposes other than aircraft, such as:
- Auto bumpers
- Truck bodies
Titanium alloys are also commonly extracted from aerospace scrap. These materials are known for being extremely strong and are very resistant to heat and corrosion. They can be remelted and reused.
Lastly, composite materials can be derived from aircraft as they are known for being lighter than traditional materials.
People often use these materials for:
- Air filtration
- Liquid filtration
- Acoustic, thermal, and structural filtration
Composite materials are often tossed and wasted once an aircraft has reached the end of its life and is disassembled.
Regardless of the type of material recycled from an aircraft, the recycling process must work to maintain as little amount of metal impurities as possible.
Economic Benefits of Aerospace Scrap Removal
Not only are there many environmental benefits to aerospace scrap removal, but there also happen to be economic benefits as well. These benefits are worth exploring when it comes to just how influential scrapping in this industry can be.
Value of recovered materials
There’s a lot of value in aerospace materials that can be sold by companies who can therefore profit from it—or at least get something back in return for their initial investment in an aircraft.
Aircraft generate tons of valuable materials that would end up in landfills or go wasted otherwise. The amount someone will get for the recovered materials will depend on a few factors, such as the condition of the scrap metal and the type.
However, when handled correctly and when requirements are met, it can be an incredibly beneficial practice.
Cost savings and revenue generation
The scrap metal recycling industry generates billions of dollars each year on its own. The aerospace industry has the potential to contribute to this even further, creating a more significant economic impact.
Aerospace scrap results in higher economic value for the metal scrap industry. But at the same time, it can also influence the economic impact of the aerospace industry. Aerospace companies ultimately save a lot of money when they can recycle. In turn, this helps move their business – and the industry – forward.
This is especially valuable because many aircraft sitting unused would be helpful in other ways. There are also financial rewards for aerospace companies as professional recyclers take their plane off their hands that would otherwise be lost profits and wasted product.
Aerospace scrap can help bring on new employment opportunities. That goes for any industry that intends to take advantage of it.
Of course, the demand for scrapping means more jobs in the scrapping industry. However, as new technologies and research and development are used as recyclables, highly skilled jobs become more in demand.
Now, we need more workers skilled in recycling the materials and following the regulations accompanying aerospace scrapping. This helps all industries become more successful.
Less expensive metal prices for manufacturers
Manufacturers benefit from aerospace scrapping in a big way as well.
They need metals and materials to create things crucial for our society’s way of living. When they can purchase those materials at a lower price, their projects become less expensive. They can turn those older unused parts into new products that end up benefiting everyone.
Recycled aluminum, for example, can help save 90% of the energy costs that would go along with sourcing the material new. Clearly, this results in huge savings! But it’s also a massive environmental benefit.
The metal is used instead of wasted and people can also purchase it at a substantially reduced price. This means cheaper products at the end of the day and further opportunities for innovative development.
As you can see, aerospace scrap has many benefits when it comes to the environment and has the potential to be an effective sustainable solution for the aerospace industry as a whole. Consistency in aerospace scrap metal can mean improving resource depletion problems, reducing pollution and landfill waste, reducing carbon footprint, and so much more.
Along with this understanding, our team has experience handling these requirements and can provide tailored scrap recycling solutions to suit them.
We are passionate about meeting high standards for safety and compliance and are excited to help ensure your aerospace scrap materials become valuable resources that help benefit everyone.
If this sounds like what you’re looking for, we encourage you to learn more about our aerospace and aviation recycling services.