Plastic has dominated the in-flight experience, but airlines including Iberia and Qantas are experimenting with ways to reduce packaging. Photograph: Jeff Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images
Airlines generated 5.2m tonnes of waste in 2016, most of which went to landfill or incineration – and it cost them £400m.
You probably know about the waste problem in our oceans. But how about the one in our skies?
Airline passengers generated 5.2m tonnes of waste in 2016, most of which went to landfill or incineration, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates. That’s the weight of about 2.6m cars. And it’s a figure set to double over the next 15 years.
Toilet waste is included in that statistic. But so are miniature wine bottles, half-eaten lunch trays, unused toothbrushes and other hallmarks of air travel.
Once a plane has landed, huge volumes of disposable items are thrown away, says Matt Rance, chief executive of MNH Sustainable Cabin Services, a company that advises airlines on waste reduction. “It’s almost like taking a tube, tipping it upside down, emptying it out and then saying ‘right, fill it up with new stuff again’.”
The airline industry has taken flak for its growing greenhouse gas emissions as passenger numbers rise. But could its massive waste footprint be solved without affecting the sector’s growth?
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