Case Study

Investment in recycling pays off

Environmental Technology

Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce has developed a recycling programme now operating at over 100 locations worldwide to recover and recycle exotic materials. The Revert programme ensures that valuable material from waste products can be used safely in the manufacture of new parts.

The company uses over 20,000 tonnes of exotic aerospace alloys every year in its manufacturing processes, including hafnium, rhenium, tantalum and titanium. The global supply of such metals is finite. It therefore makes good business sense, as well as environmental good-practice, to recycle as much as possible.

Over the past decade, the company has developed processes to remove coatings, separate alloys and clean the waste metal. Unserviceable engine parts and waste metal from machining titanium are recovered and reused. Rhenium alloys from used turbine blades are re-melted. Almost half of a used engine can now be recycled and the quality of the recovered material is now so high that the metals can be safely used again to make a new engine.

The end result is a reduction in the need for raw materials and a measurable reduced impact on the environment from the production process. The Revert programme saves the company 20,000 MWh of energy per year – enough to power 1.8 million homes for a day. This reduces CO2 emissions by 9,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent carbon footprint of a car circumnavigating the planet 1,500 times.

Rolls-Royce has partnered with waste-metal processing specialist SOS Metals, which has established itself close to Rolls-Royce’s manufacturing plants near Derby in the United Kingdom, creating new jobs and further growth opportunities