Boeing Manages To Reduce Waste, Water Use and Emissions While Growing Its Business

Boeing is reducing waste, water use and emissions in its facilities while business keeps booming. The company that produces aircraft generated less greenhouse gas emissions, used less water, sent fewer solid waste to landfill, and generated less hazardous waste in 2016.

Developing alternatives to fossil fuels is key in reducing emissions for a sector like the aircraft industry. Boeing is investing in alternatives to fossil fuels such as a 10 percent biofuel blend made from Brazilian cane sugar that was used during all test flights. Biofuels can reduce life-cycle emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared with fossil fuel.

Boeing partners with organizations, airlines, research institutions, and governments on advancing biofuel development. In South Africa, The company partnered with South African Airways and Mango to fly the first flights in Africa powered by a 30 percent blend of biofuels produced from a nicotine-free tobacco plant called solaris. Boeing supported a study by the Port of Seattle and Alaska Airlines that found the best initial solution to provide biofuel for every departure at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is an on-site receiving blending facility. The company plans to accelerate its investment in developing sustainable biofuels in the coming years.

For Boeing, reducing emissions means embracing renewable energy. It has a new Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) system in operation in Port Hueneme, California. This system uses solar power to generate hydrogen from seawater, and release the hydrogen into a fuel cell stack to produce electricity, heat and water. There are on-site solar power systems at its facilities in North Charleston, South Carolina and Salt Lake City, Utah. At other facilities, it purchases green power.

Reducing energy use and increasing energy efficiency are also part of Boeing’s environmental policies. Over the last five years, the company has reduced absolute energy use by 5.9 percent while commercial airline production has increased by 25 percent. In 2016, it achieved an absolute energy reduction of 802,000 mmbtu (million British thermal units), and improved energy efficiency by 13 percent since 2012. The same year, Boeing commissioned a new chiller plant at Everett, Washington to support the largest building the world by volume, which gave it a 36 efficiency improvement.

Water management has long been important to Boeing. In the early 1970s, it pioneered large-scale water purification systems to supply water to arid places. It is still practicing good water management. In Huntington Beach, California a team found a way to reuse filtered and treated groundwater water to irrigate the 188 acre grounds. Just as it does with developing biofuels, Boeing partners with organizations on water management. In 2016, it partnered with The Nature Conservancy to fund water-wise plant research at a laboratory California.

Boeing’s goal is to stay at or below 2012 levels of waste sent to landfill. Since 2012, it has reduced waste sent to landfill by almost 19 percent. Its Enhanced Recycling program is part of its waste reduction. Through the program, employees separate waste into color-coded bins labeled for mixing, recycling composting and landfill or incineration. The system is designed to divert up to 80 percent of waste ending up in landfill or incinerated.

Photo: Boeing