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KLM proves that plastic bottles can help fix airplanes

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has started recycling plastic bottles into tools used to repair its aircraft.

Empty bottles are collected at the end of every flight and transformed into filament, the material used in 3D printers. Previously, KLM purchased 3D filament from external suppliers. Now, processing tonnes of used polyethylene (PET) bottles at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam helps KLM save money while reducing its waste.

The Dutch airliner’s Engineering & Maintenance department uses around 1.5 kg of high quality filament every day. Because KLM now supplies PET bottles as a raw material, the cost of this filament has dropped from EUR 60/kg to just EUR 17/kg.

KLM’s project partners are recycling firm Morssinkhof Rymoplast and the filament manufacturer Reflow.

The major airline company aims to reduce the volume of its waste by 50% in 2030, compared to 2011 levels. In 2018, KLM reduced waste by 9% and 28% of what remained was recycled, says Ton Dortmans, executive Vice President of KLM’s Engineering & Maintenance department.

‘We are continuously investing in sustainable and innovative products and processes,’ he adds. ‘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.’

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