Aviation finance company Avolon has partnered with upholstery specialist Soisa Aircraft Interiors on a project to turn scrap material from old aircraft into craft products.
Waste materials, including over 800kg of leather, are donated to members of the Tarahumara tribe in Chihuahua, Mexico, who make them into traditional artisan products like wallets, bags, aprons and tablecloths.
Soisa is headquartered in Chihuahua, with a further facility in Dubai, UAE.
The companies said the interior furnishings of aircraft being decommissioned or refitted, such as seat covers and curtains, often end up in a landfill. Through the Waste to Wonder project they are instead helping to provide an income stream for the families of 55 Tarahumara tribe members who have participated in the project.
The project is supported by Fomento y Desarrollo Artesanal de Chihuahua (FODARCH), a government body that promotes indigenous cultural traditions. It has provided training and facilitates the sale of the finished products in a shop popular with visitors to Chihuahua.
Avolon’s sustainability strategy includes a commitment to support the circular economy by increasing the reuse and recycling of materials from old aircraft in a sustainable manner. Avolon recently joined a coalition of partners in a pledge to use only tear-down facilities accredited by the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA).
“The Waste to Wonder project provides an excellent example of how, through creativity and collaboration, better use can be made of materials in the aviation supply chain that were previously regarded as scrap,” said Enda Swan, head of technical, Avolon. “The ability of the Tarahumara tribe members in Chihuahua to produce beautiful artisan products out of old leather from seat covers has been inspiring to see. Avolon is committed to finding more opportunities to decommission end-of-life aviation materials in a sustainable manner.”
“Working closely with members of the Tarahumara tribe in Chihuahua, we have been honoured to establish this project with the support of Avolon and FODARCH,” said Jacobo Mesta, chief executive, Soisa Aircraft Interiors. “Working more sustainably is a key objective at Soisa and this project has provided a perfect opportunity to convert something previously regarded as waste into a craft product that can be sold to improve the livelihoods of local communities.”