Earlier this month, we teamed up with one of our long-standing aviation customers, Southwest Airlines®, to deliver a joint circularity vision at the Aircraft Cabin Innovation Summit US.

We briefly discussed out decade long partnership focused on delivering value, performance and also (and perhaps most importantly), a sustainable solution. But the partnership doesn’t end there. Creating an environmentally friendly material to upholster seats is only part of the plan. Together with SWA, we aim to disrupt the take-make-waste culture.

The circularity challenge

The principles of circularity are a roadmap to a better approach and a more sustainable future. They can be summarised simply as:

Using as few resources as possible in the most efficient way. Starting with a thoughtful design because waste is not inevitable.

Keeping materials/products/components in use for as long as possible and at their highest value. The lowest carbon solution is (usually) the one already in service.

Replace and restore the resources you use. Support the ecosystem and make sure your impact is always regenerative.

In the case of this partnership, keeping material at its highest value is key, once it has served its purpose as a seat cover.

Southwest Airlines® have been donating their used covers as part of the “Repurpose with purpose” scheme which is a great start. The initiative not only helps recycle existing resources but also helps local communities.

But we must think bigger: how can find a way to reuse the resources we already have at scale?

Collaboration is the key

As a fibre technology company, ELeather is ideally placed to explore the solution.

A finished seat cover is made up of layers of components all joined together.

We’ve been looking at Southwest’s old seat covers (which they had had the foresight to save for this exact reason) and their various layers.

circular economy

The goal is to reuse the same materials/fibres as many times as possible back into the same solution. In order to do that, however, all components need to be suitable for this purpose.

To put it simply, an end of life solution ought to be considered right at the design stage. Are the materials and components recyclable? Can they be put back into the process once their first lifecycle is over?

This means a need for greater collaboration throughout the supply chain. It means material suppliers, foam suppliers, adhesive suppliers working together is order to find a solution in a transparent way. Educating designers on what’s possible and how to retain each resource for as long as possible at the lowest cost to the environment.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss how ELeather can help you explore sustainable material options.