In-flight meals: challenges and opportunities for more sustainable packaging

When safety, hygiene and public health are the priority or when it is more resource-efficient, it is more appropriate to use light plastic or paper tableware than their heavy-duty metal, ceramic or glass alternatives. This is typically the case for food and drinks served on planes. Passengers and flight attendants need to be kept safe. Extra precautions are needed to prevent the spread of diseases. And lighter tableware helps reduce CO2 emissions and fuel costs, among others.

Closed environments are the low hanging fruits when it comes to implementing separate collection of waste to allow for more recycling. This is particularly true of planes. The above-mentioned imperatives might have justified the use and untreated disposal of single-use tableware, but this is a missed opportunity for a more efficient and circular economy.

Food-grade tableware is made of the highest quality raw materials – a requirement to avoid food contamination. These valuable resources should not be land-filled or incinerated, but rather they should be recycled, whenever possible. This requires better design of eating and drinking experiences and more systematic separate collection.

This is what the EU-sponsored EUR 2.6 million “Zero Cabin Waste” pilot project in Madrid aims to achieve. But we do not need to wait until 2020 to start collecting waste separately on planes. Cups, trays and cutlery made of paper or plastics, aluminium cans or PET bottles can all be easily separately collected to be recycled. Let’s follow the lead set by households.

Our circular economy #Blog