A Trash-Powered Plane Takes To The Skies

A modern-day Lindbergh is attempting to show us the power of a new kind of fuel by flying the length of England using only garbage to power his flight.

A Trash-Powered Plane Takes To The Skies
Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock

Andy Pag has traveled to Timbuktu in a truck powered by chocolate. He’s gone round the world on donated vegetable oil. And in 2008 he organized the “Grease to Greece Rally” for cars running on restaurant discards.


The guy has a point to prove: that it’s possible to go more or less anywhere on stuff most of us would throw away.

But he’s not finished yet. Pag’s latest project is to fly from one end of Britain to the other–from Land’s End to John O’Groats–in a microlight plane. The fuel of choice this time is actually a conventional gasoline, though it’s made from un-recyclable plastics.

“This is the first time a plane has been fueled from trash as far as I am aware,” Pag says. “It’s uplifting when you are taking a load of trash and turn it into fuel, and with that you can fly a length of the country. It’s really inspiring.”

The fuel is made by a British company using Fischer–Tropsch synthesis–a process of making synthetic fuel that dates back to before WWII. Pag says the fuel is worth highlighting because it produces limited CO2, and reduces the volume of plastics that otherwise would go to landfills.

Pag’s plan is to fly two or three hours a day, making regular stops to show off the plane and educate people about non-fossil fuels. “We want to make the flight local, as well as national,” he says. “It gives us an opportunity to engage with communities along the way.”

He says he isn’t worried about the fuel itself. “It’s been well tested, and it meets the right standards in terms of its octane rating and viscosity. It’s a pioneering demonstration of the technology, rather than a test flight.”


But flying microlights can be dangerous–especially in poor British weather. “Flying microlights isn’t without its risks,” he says. “It’s like a motorbike of the sky.”

Whatever it takes, though, Pag wants to keep on proving that there’s value in a lot of what we currently waste, and he wants to have fun doing it. Good luck to him.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.