By Liz White, editor
Dallas, Texas - Budget US group Southwest Airlines is using polyurethane foam and polyurethane leather as two parts of its latest approach to environmental stewardship: what it calls the 'Green Plane.'
Combined efforts will reduce Southwest's seat weight by almost 5 lb (2.25 kg), as well as reducing waste, to save fuel and reduce emissions, the airline claims.
A vital part of the weight reduction is provided by Greiner PURtec's Foam Fill - which Southwest describes as "a lighter weight fill," used in the back of the seats. This "reduces weight while providing increased customer comfort," the airline says.
Another aspect - better sustainability, comes from using seat covers which offer "more than twice the durability than the current leather seats, as well as a weight savings per seat of almost two pounds,' Southwest claims. They are recyclable and have an environmentally- friendly manufacturing process.
Two new products are being tested on the aircraft seats. On one side of the aisle, e-Leather is being used; This is described eco-friendly, lightweight and scuff resistant. It is recycled from leather scrap, which is upgraded into composition leather - which also has a polyurethane coating.
On the other side of the aisle, Southwest is trying out 'IZIT Leather,' a lightweight artificial leather which has a polyurethane surface on a textile background. This material is "economical and durable, but with the genuine appearance and touch of luxurious leather," Southwest said.
Other materials contributing to the green effect include the totally recyclable InterfaceFlor Carpet with a manufacturing process dedicated to being carbon neutral.
Greiner Purtec, which supplies the seat back cushions, is a Euro 50-million turnover Austrian-headquartered foam specialist, with facilities in Forth Worth, Texas; Shanghai, China; Niederdreisbach, Germany; and Nyrsko, the Czech Republic, as well as its Schwanenstadt, Austria site.
The foam expert supplies covered seat cushions to airlines such as Easyjet, Emirates, Lufthansa, Iberia and BMI, and offers customers a wide range of services, including in-house wear testing of fabrics and cushions, comfort testing by pressure mapping, full burn test coordination, as well as special design services such as 3D modelling.
Parent company Greiner has various foam operations in rebond (Multifoam), automotive acoustic trim (Perfoam) as well as operating the EuroFoam flexible foam joint venture with Recticel NV.