How can the amount of airline waste be reduced?

airline waste

Few people are fully aware of the amount of airline waste created. Airline passengers created 5,2 million tonnes of waste in 2016, most of which went to landfills or incinerators. This figure is set to double over the next 15 years.


This figure includes toilet waste, miniature wine bottles, half-eaten lunch trays and unused toothbrushes to name a few. Once a plane has landed, huge volumes of rubbish are thrown away. The airline industry has been criticised for its growing greenhouse gas emissions but what about its massive waste footprint. A Spanish project launched by a group of companies is taking on the challenge of airline waste. The project aims to recover 80% of  airlines waste coming into Mardrid’s Barajas airport by 2020. They aim to do this by using simple measures such as using trolleys designed for waste separation. About 2,500 cabin crew members will be trained in waste separation. The programme is also exploring low-packaging meals and reusable cutlery. There are also plans to use data led solutions  for example frequent flyer information could be used to anticipate business class passengers’ meal preferences, meaning fewer meals would need to be prepared with less waste.


Last year Gatwick opened an on-site waste-to-energy plant, reducing the need for lorries to transport waste somewhere else. Gatwick hopes that  eventually the power produced will be used to help heat the north terminal. America’s United Airlines has switched to compostable paper cups and last year began donating unused amenity kits to homeless people and women’s shelters. This is expected to divert more than 27 tonnes by the end of the first year.


However despite these actions airline waste continues to grow and more still needs to be done.


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