While participating in an innovation training session at the Airbus Leadership University in 2017, Anaïs Mazaleyrat and Jérémy Brousseau quickly discovered that they shared a novel idea.
What if used aircraft parts could be given a second life…as designer furniture or interior design objects?
Recycling various aircraft materials and parts—from carbon fibre composites to aluminium and textiles—is not a new concept in the aviation industry. Reusable materials from old aircraft are often used to produce products such as circuit boards, computers and TVs. Some aircraft parts can also be recovered or refurbished for reuse in new aircraft. According to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA), up to 85% of an aircraft is recycled. However, transforming used aircraft parts into furniture has never been done—until now.
By 'upcycling' non-quality and end-of-life parts, we make the most of some beautiful, rare materials, pay tribute to the skill involved in their manufacture, and demonstrate alternative, positive ways of dealing with waste.
Anaïs Mazaleyrat, Co-Founder, A Piece of Sky
“Re-imagined factories and ‘industrial’ furnishings are increasingly popular and, combined with aviation fans, we thought that would provide a market for products based on Airbus parts,” Jérémy says.
The idea proved appealing to the Airbus BizLab in Toulouse, which is part of a network of Airbus business accelerators around the world. Airbus BizLab fast-tracked support to get the project off the ground. Throughout 2018, the duo worked on developing furniture prototypes with a group of 11 design professionals—including industrial designers, artists, craftspeople, design consultants and manufacturers. Twenty-two prototypes, from armchairs to coffee tables, have been created so far. In January 2019, they sent out a new request for designer submissions through a collaborative platform to launch season two of their furniture and interior design object collection.
From waste to worth: upcycling aircraft parts
For Anaïs, repurposing aircraft parts as furniture is not a full-scale replacement for conventional recycling. However, it is, she believes, a viable alternative to traditional waste disposal.
“By ‘upcycling’ non-quality and end-of-life parts, we make the most of some beautiful, rare materials, pay tribute to the skill involved in their manufacture, and demonstrate alternative, positive ways of dealing with waste,” she says.
Upcycling, also known as “creative reuse,” is the process of transforming waste materials or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for increased environmental value. Increasingly, manufacturers, consumers and governments are upcycling to keep old products out of landfills by transforming them into something new.
And Airbus is looking to play its part, too.
“Our role at the Chief Technology Office is to nurture innovative ideas wherever they come from,” explains Grazia Vittadini, Airbus CTO. “This is why we created the BizLabs, to support entrepreneurs such as Anaïs and Jérémy by speeding up the transformation of their ideas into a viable business model aligned with our values.”