Eco-efficiencyat every step of the aircraft life-cycle
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A coordinated effort

In Toulouse, France, three-quarters of the waste collected and sorted at the area’s Airbus sites is recycled or sent for material recovery, with the rest used for energy-generation purposes.

These facilities produce as much non-hazardous refuse as a town with 3,400 households; during 2010, 500 tonnes of wood, more than 400 tonnes of paper and 1,100 tonnes of metal scrap and chips were recycled thanks to a new “sorting attitude.” 

The sorting rules are the same in the offices at Airbus’ headquarters and its design/production operation: everything that can be recycled – including paper with a coloured background – must be thrown away in designated blue dustbins; paper with a white background in shredders or baskets; and waste that requires incineration in yellow dustbins.

Processing power

Three-quarters of the waste collected and sorted at Airbus’ multiple Toulouse, France sites is recycled or sent for material recovery.

Another 6,200 tonnes of potentially dangerous refuse are sent to the Airbus waste collection and processing centre. Slightly less than one-third of this material is then transferred to approved centres outside the company, but the largest portion – representing more than two-thirds of the total – is processed on the spot. 

Every year, the centre handles 4,000 tonnes of liquid effluent (rinsing water, soluble oils and paint booth washing water as examples), which is transformed from waste into industrial effluent. The process used makes it possible to separate the water from other materials. At the end of this cycle, water can be poured back into the rainwater network, and only about 600 tonnes of concentrates are left for dispatch to specialist centres. 

Addressing packaging waste

A central transport and logistics team inspired by this concept is working with Airbus’ procurement department, suppliers and lead logistics provider Kuehne+Nagel to examine the possibilities for reducing packaging waste – which represents 11 per cent of all the refuse produced by Airbus.

Improvements can be found through the utilization of reusable packaging, however it isn’t always the best option. The strategy’s validity also depends on such factors as the distance to be covered, which must be short; the cost of the empty packaging's return trip; and setup of a specific transport loop. These criteria help to determine the best types of packaging to be used between Airbus sites and between the sites and suppliers. 

The first Airbus aircraft programme to deploy reusable shuttle cases for the transport of interior furnishings was the long-range A340 Family, leading to a significant reduction in packaging waste. The team responsible for this project now aims to develop a single approach within Airbus for decision-making concerning packaging.

Printing and industrial savings

To reduce paper consumption, Airbus has installed systems aimed at eliminating unnecessary printing of documents.

The “Follow you” printing system shares the same objective: reducing the amounts of paper refuse produced needlessly. The goal is to save on the 320 million copies printed each year at Airbus. In support of this, new multi-function printers were deployed in France during 2010. The printing of documents is only initiated when the person requesting the job passes their badge over the machine’s reader. This means that the quantity of faulty documents thrown directly in the bins – or the documents not collected after printing and consequently thrown away – should be significantly reduced. 

Large sources of savings and of ecological advances also have been identified in industrial processes. For instance, particular attention has been paid to sealing products used at all stages of aircraft assembly. The goal is to reduce the amount of waste from these products –which are costly, both in ecological and economic terms. 

Airbus' UK sites have the same ambitions. In Broughton, the “Sealant Reduction” project achieved its first success by switching from a self-service system in the workshop to one that only supplies the necessary amount for each set of wings produced for Airbus aircraft.

Did you know?

"In the last 40 years, the aviation industry has cut fuel burn and CO2 emissions by70%, NOx emissions by 90% and noise by 75%."

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