Waste-to-Wings Project – Decreasing Aviation Emissions by Producing Fuel from Municipal Waste


Air transport accounts for 11.6% of total transport emissions at the moment. The UK’s Department for Transport has estimated that moving away from conventional jet fuel towards more sustainable alternatives could cut annual emissions from the aviation industry by up to 23 megatonnes.

Recognising this and the significant benefits to be gained from a more circular approach, the UK aims to position itself at the forefront of green aviation and has been supporting a range of projects that will help achieve this goal.


Bioethanol as a Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are a potential game changer. They present a significant opportunity for circular economy provocateurs to step forward with pioneering proof-of-concepts and disruptive means to advance the manufacture of SAF which will in turn drive the aviation industry’s transition to net zero.

In the Waste-to-Wings project, aerospace industry derived waste was used as a primary biogenic feedstock to produce green jet fuel. Wilson Bio-Chemical led the project and advanced its patented Wilson System®, which bio-chemically recycles and separates the homogeneous content of unsorted Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to produce bioethanol which is compatible with today’s aircraft engines


Industry Support for Waste-to-Wings

HSSMI was tasked with establishing a closed loop supply chain and circular economy framework for the Waste-to-Wings project. This involved engaging with waste producers across the upstream and midstream value chain and forging strong links with aerospace industry stakeholders to establish synergy, cooperation and a repository of waste producers to ensure continuity of MSW feedstock supply. HSSMI mapped out waste streams and conducted waste feedstock audits and surveys with stakeholders. This enabled us to access the critical mass waste streams needed to scale up and produce commercially meaningful fuel volumes.

As a result of our stakeholder engagement strategy, we developed strong relationships with industry and academia experts. As an example, the Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA) – one of the world’s largest and most influential aerospace cluster bodies – provided us with an opportunity to engage circular economy practitioners at scale. This was possible thanks to the MAA’s network of over 250 Midlands based aerospace stakeholders including major aerospace primes, OEM’s and hard to reach SME groups.


A Carbon-Neutral and Closed-Loop Solution

A main differentiator of Waste-to-Wings that surpasses other SAF projects is that it displaces the embedded carbon generated in the production of MSW by harnessing circular economy approaches. The Wilson System® reverses land degradation by diverting the typically non-recyclable MSW from incineration and converting into a sustainable aviation fuel.

Similarly, the Wilson System® is non-food competing and abates deforestation. Its biochemical pathway genetically modif ies micro-organisms that are derived from MSW, as opposed to biofuels that are produced f rom plant-based pathology that use valuable food growing space.


Award Nominations for Waste-to-Wings

Our partnership work was recently recognised by professional peers who have nominated the Waste-to-Wings project for three top industry awards, including shortlistings in the prestigious Low Carbon category at the global Energy Institute Awards 2021. Waste-to-Wings also secured a f inalist place at the Make UK Manufacturing Awards in the Innovation category and the much-coveted Energy & Sustainability category. Most recently, Waste-to-Wings was shortlisted for a Sustainability West Midlands (SWM) Sustainability Roadmap to 2030 award.


Waste-to-Wings is a collaborative project led by Wilson Bio-Chemical Ltd (WBC), together with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), University of Nottingham and Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA). It is funded through the Aerospace Unlocking Potential programme which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

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