The waste produced from in-flight operations can be a significant, if not managed properly. Research by IATA indicates that the sector generated 4.9 million tonnes of cabin waste in 2016, meaning that airlines have a responsibility to manage the level of waste and recycle wherever possible.

Air France-KLM has taken on the challenge of reducing waste generation throughout their supply chain, following the ‘4R principle’: redesign, reduce, re-use and recycle. This mantra is being used by the group to work towards its ambition to recover 100% of waste recycling and recovery by the year 2020. Onboard catering at the airline group accounts for roughly 70% of all non-hazardous waste produced, which is why Air France-KLM have approached the problem through preventing additional waste through redesign and training staff to separate waste correctly, so as to ensure as much is recycled as possible.

A key part of the group’s approach to waste is the eco-design of onboard items, whereby textiles (e.g. used uniforms, carpets, etc.) are recycled into fibers used to manufacture new carpets for cabins and insulation materials for cars. Materials such as trays, blankets, trolleys and cups are regularly recycled by both airlines. However, due to international regulations surrounding food waste on intercontinental flights, uneaten food at the end of each flight must be incinerated. This food waste is, however, used to produce energy.