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The amazing story of the Old Man in the Airplane

Posted on November 15 2019

Could you imagine living in an old airplane in the middle of a forest? It's actually hard to believe – and yet there's a man who does just that. Here is the incredible story of Bruce Campbell.

Airplane in the forest

If we're going to truly address the climate crisis and create new ways of living more sustainably, we'll need to challenge conventional thinking on just about everything. That's what Bruce Campbell has done. By converting an airplane into his home in Oregon (USA), Bruce has given us a whole new perspective on recycling.

Have you ever thought about what happens to old airplanes? They are actually made of a majority of recyclable materials, but many are not recycled fully or properly, becoming waste. If we can use our imagination, the potential for recycling and reusing airplanes can be an amazing opportunity.

Some interesting stats about old airplanes:

  • The average life span of an airplane isabout 25-30 years.
  • An average of 3 jetliners are retiredevery day.
  • Airlines will often sell off salvageableparts.
  • Storing a decommissioned plane costsabout $60k/month.
  • There are several junk yards in the USdedicated to recycling airplane parts.
  • It is estimated that 12,000 aircraftswill be retired in the next 20 years.
  • 80-95% of an airplane can berecycled.
  • Interior plastic panels and baggage binsare the most difficult to recycle.
  • About 500 planes are dismantled everyyear, and by 2030 that's expected to rise to 2,000/year.
  • Recycling retired airplanes costs about$80 Million per year.
  • 30,000 tons of aluminium, 1,800 tons ofspecial alloys, and 600 tons of parts are produced every year by theAircraft Fleet Recycling Association.
  • New challenge: there is no certain wayof recycling newer planes built of carbon fibre, however planes built withthis material have better fuel efficiency.
  • Since the cost of recycling airplanes isso high, some are simply left to rust.

How does the recycling process work?

When it happens, the recycling process occurs in a special junk yard where the first step is to remove any valuable components and hazardous materials, followed by an assessment of which parts can be sold. The plane is then deconstructed through the removal of bolts, with each part removed piece by piece, some saved for scrap metal. And finally, the rest gets crushed and taken to a bone yard. 

Airplane recycling

What’s the potential of recycled airplanes?

In addition to planting many trees around the property, Bruce has found a way to make an airplane into his home. And while that may not be a practical choice for everyone, it begs the question of why we can't convert airplanes into all sorts of things. Restaurants, Airbnb's, kid’s playhouses, shops... why not? All it takes is some creative thinking and dedication. Sustainability is within our reach if we dare to try.

© This blog was researched, written and published by our partner organisation OneTreePlanted. The content was adopted and translated by NIKIN. The blog may contain some variations from the original. The original blog and more information can be found at Since 2016 we work together with the renown non-profit organisation from the USA – so far, we’ve planted over 300’000 trees all over the world.


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