Circular economy is defined as an economy where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimised. In 2015 the European Commission developed a Circular Economy Package, encouraging European businesses and consumers to make the transition to a circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way and to create innovative, more efficient ways of producing and consuming. The EU Circular Economy strategy aims at establishing an ambitious and credible long-term path for waste management and recycling. The aerospace and defence industry is contributing to a circular economy through increased sustainability awareness, technical innovations and responsible disposal and recycling of aircraft (parts). Accreditation to ISO14001 (Environmental Management) or equivalent is encouraged throughout its members and supply chain.
Environmental sustainability plays an important role across the aircraft life-cycle, as forward-looking innovations and advanced materials are embedded into new aircraft designs. During the manufacturing process, the environmental impact is managed through a better control of waste material and reduced energy consumption at manufacturing facilities. At the end of an aircraft life-cycle, up to 95% of aircraft parts are re-used and recycled. It is important to adapt these practices to the new materials used in aircraft manufacturing, such as composite materials.
In addition to initiatives such as Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) and Tarmac, dedicated to sustainable aircraft recycling and disassembly, the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) is undertaking work to support environmental sustainability beyond the production and utilization of aircraft and to provide best practices on recycling processes
The working body in charge of this issue is the Environment Commission.