KLM Is Making Tools To Repair Aircraft From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Recently, we’ve seen quite a few airlines, airports and even whole countries change their operations to reduce plastic waste and to protect the environment. KLM is now ramping up its offensive to be more environmentally friendly and its latest initiative is a world first.

KLM Is Making Tools To Repair Aircraft From Recycled Plastic Bottles
KLM becomes the first airline to recycle plastic bottles for tools. Photo: KLM

From old bottles to new tools

The 100-year old Dutch carrier KLM has become the first airline in the world to recycle plastic bottles to make tools to repair its aircraft. The carrier now hands over plastic bottles from its flights to a recycling company. in return, KLM receives high-quality plastic pellets. These plastic pellets are the key components for the 3D printing filament that KLM uses for manufacturing aircraft parts and tools.

The Executive Vice-President of Engineering & Maintenance for KLM, who use the 3D printing filament, said this a press release:

“We are continuously investing in sustainable and innovative products and processes. For our customers, for society and for our own employees. It’s terrific to see how we are able to make useful products from waste materials.”

KLM Is Making Tools To Repair Aircraft From Recycled Plastic Bottles
The bottles are made into high-quality filament. Photo: KLM

What tools will be made?

KLM has already begun replacing traditional maintenance methods for 3D printed alternatives. The airline says that this process speeds up repair times.

KLM Is Making Tools To Repair Aircraft From Recycled Plastic Bottles
The engineering team at KLM has been using 3D printing for years. Photo: KLM

It uses a 3D printed cover instead of protective tape when conducting maintenance checks on turbine blades. Its team has also developed plugs from 3D printers to cover rim holes on the wheels of its Boeing 737s to prevent them from getting painted over.

The recycled plastic pellets will fit into this equation to help KLM cover all its 3D printing maintenance needs. In terms of effectiveness, the recycled pellets are just as good as non-recycled versions.

Lending a hand to the environment

The airline has made this change as part of its continuing efforts for the environment.

In 2018, it became part of 20 organizations with a vision to clean up the aviation industry. The Smart and Sustainable Plan was created around this time last year to make the Dutch aviation industry one of the cleanest in the world. Its primary goal was to reduce CO2 emissions by 35% in 2030.

It’s something KLM takes seriously. In its Annual Report 2018, it said:

“For the first year, KLM has succeeded in reducing absolute CO2 emissions while increasing production.”

But waste also plays heavily in KLM’s vision for a cleaner world.

In terms of waste, the airline aims to reduce the volume it creates by 50% by 2030 in comparison to the recorded amount of waste in 2011. Already, it has managed to decrease waste by 9% in 2018 and recycled 28% of the rest.

Plastic turns profits

But the move is not just benefitting the environment. It’s also smart in terms of KLM’s profits.

KLM has been using 3D printing facilities for a number of years in its Engineering and Maintenance team. Every day it requires 1.5kg of filament for its printers. And, because of its alliance with Morssinkhof Rymoplast recycling company and Reflow for printer filament, it’s been able to reduce the cost for filament by over 70%. Printer filament now costs KLM €17 per kg, saving it €64.50 each day.

Needless to say, the move is smart but it’s also the first of its kind. We hold out high hopes for more changes like this in the aviation industry and more initiatives from KLM in the future.

KLM Is Making Tools To Repair Aircraft From Recycled Plastic Bottles
What will the future hold for a greener KLM? Photo: KLM

Will we be seeing more airlines recycle waste to repair their aircraft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!