Reducing In-Flight Waste

Is this the in-flight meal tray of the future?

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We are happy to see not only that the BBC has given this issue attention, but so has the Design Museum:

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Just some of the waste from an average passenger on a 12-hour flight.

Squeeze and settle into your chair on a long-haul economy flight, and you might be offered a drink, in a plastic cup, which you’ll stir with a plastic stick.

You might be given a pack of toiletries – wrapped in plastic, containing a toothbrush – wrapped in plastic.

You might watch a film, using headphones – wrapped in plastic. You might enjoy a meal which you’ll eat with plastic cutlery, also wrapped in plastic. The list goes on and on.

Put together, that contributes to the 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste from passenger flights each year.

A greener meal tray

A new exhibition at London’s Design Museum aims to rethink the waste we generate when we travel.

Design firm PriestmanGoode has worked up an environmentally-friendly version of the traditional economy meal tray.

The base is made out of coffee grains, it uses a waffle cone for the desert dish, and algae skins contain milk and vinaigrette. The salad pot is made from a pressed banana leaf and the “spork” (a spoon and fork combined) is made from coconut wood, a cheap and easily-available material.

The product’s designer, Jo Rowan, says: “It’s about weight as much as waste. When it comes to flying, lighter weight means less emissions”.”

It’s perhaps far too beautiful (and expensive) to grace the average economy flight, but it does highlight how small changes could have a massive environmental impact.

Most airlines are taking simple steps to reduce passenger waste and nudge behaviour.

Virgin Atlantic has started putting its headphones in a charity donation envelope and it no longer offers packs of toiletries in economy as a matter of course. Instead, passengers request them from cabin crew.

Meanwhile, British Airways has saved 30 tonnes of plastic a year by cutting the wrapping around its amenity packs and replacing its plastic swizzle sticks with a bamboo alternative.

Qantas has trialled a zero-waste flight and aims to eliminate 75% of its waste in the next two years.

Dealing with the rubbish

When waste lands at an airport, there’s a limit to how much can be recycled – due to differing international regulations.

For example, 90% of rubbish that comes through London’s Heathrow can’t be recycled in the UK. Instead, it is burnt or sent to landfill because of concerns about biosecurity…

Read the whole story here.

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