On wings of waste: Plane fuelled by recycled plastic wins Attenborough's approval

A plan to fly across America in a plane powered by recycled plastic has been welcomed by legendary broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough as a "sign of hope in a very depressing world".

British-born pilot and adventurer Jeremy Rowsell climbs on board the 'On Wings of Waste' plane to raise awareness of plastic pollution

British-born pilot and adventurer Jeremy Rowsell climbs on board the 'On Wings of Waste' plane to raise awareness of plastic pollution

Set for take-off in August this year, British-born pilot Jeremy Rowsell will fly more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco to Alaska in the pioneering 'On Wings of Waste' flight, which will use recycled plastic waste as aviation fuel. (Scroll down for video).

Commenting on the journey, Attenborough said: “At last a mechanism has been found where they are turning plastic waste into something that can be used and be valuable.”


Rowsell was inspired to embark on the project after seeing devastating plastic pollution while flying over the Pacific Ocean, and the adventurer now aims to use the innovative journey as an awareness-raising tool to fight the problems of plastic waste and climate change.

“The purpose of this journey is to showcase the potential of this revolutionary invention, by doing something that has never been done before,” Rowsell said. “I had heard of the pacific garbage patch, but until I stepped foot on the islands myself, I didn’t realise how big the issue was. I believe that the problem can be resolved within a generation by changing attitudes and giving plastic value rather than treating it in a disposable fashion.

“Plastic-to-oil technology is one of these solutions. The fuel itself is also more efficient and cleaner, and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70%.”

Rowsell has launched a crowdfunding page on the Indiegogo platform – which recently partnered with sustainable business pioneer Unilever - to offer contributors the chance to have their names inscribed on the plane in exchange for donations.

Wasted journey

Attenborough – who recently called for a ‘renewables space race’ research programme – is not the only person to endorse the flight. World-leading plastic waste converter Plastic Energy has also backed the journey.

Plastic Energy chief executive Carlos Monreal said: “Jeremy’s flight is a tremendous opportunity to showcase how plastic waste can be put to productive use instead of thrown away to pollute the oceans or despoil the land. We are delighted to be supporting this adventure.”   

The On Wings of Waste project comes at a crucial time for the issue of plastic waste. Earlier this year, the ‘New Plastics Economy’ report produced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation revealed that at least eight million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year. By 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans, the Foundation claims.

George Ogleby


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