LIFE Zero Cabin Waste lays the basis for reducing environmental impacts of flying

Researchers led by Pere Fullana i Palmer at the UNESCO Chair ESCI-UPF propose applying a life cycle perspective to plan an efficient and differentiated waste management. The study has been published in Detritus and is part of the LIFE Zero Cabin Waste Project aimed at creating a sustainable model to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste generated in aircraft cabins.

LIFE Zero Cabin Waste

The low cost of landfill disposal, particularly for non hazardous waste, and a lack of appropriate facilities and restrictive regulations, among others, have historically discouraged airlines and aviation industry actors to proactively look for cabin waste solutions back more than 20 years, according to researchers at the Chair. But, in recent years, airlines have increased their efforts to tackle the waste generated in aircraft cabins, however, these efforts usually lack of comprehensive approach.

In this context, the Life Zero Cabin Waste Project works “to create an integrated model to properly separate the cabin waste on board, demonstrate that waste can be dealt with in a more environmentally friendly way contributing to the reduction of the high carbon footprint associated to the generation and the current inadequate management of cabin waste and set the basis for replication through standard protocols,” explains Gonzalo Blanca-Alcubilla, researcher at the Chair responsible for the Project.

In a recent study published in Detritus, led by Pere Fullana i Palmer, director of the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, scientists at the Chair have analysed the state of the art of the current situation, being able to identify the premises to be taken into account when guiding future decisions through a life cycle perspective. This work highlights the need for identifying the composition of the waste and its origin through a characterization study, to plan an efficient and differentiated management. “The distance of flight has a direct relationship between the amount of waste and the unmanipulated material generated. The majority of it is organic matter that comes from the menus,” explains Blanca-Alcubilla. “Regarding catering food, menus with a greater amount of foods of vegetable origin will have a lower carbon footprint than those where there is the presence of meat, especially bovine,” he adds.

AWhen deciding what kind of material both for packaging and cutlery should be used, researchers propose considering the number of uses of the reusable item, the efficiency of the washing process and the number of washes between the uses since the washing stage is one of the stages with the highest impact for the reusable items. “Being in the early stages of the project, these preliminary outcomes are laying the groundwork for reaching the goals set,” explains Alba Bala, leader of the Waste Management Research Line at the Chair.

Overall, this study lays the basis for future improvements that will allow reaching the proposed objectives. Future research will investigate “the waste flow and the tourist flows, where most of the recoverable waste is, for a correct separation in origin towards a substantial improvement of the entire process,” concludes Fullana i Palmer.

About Life Zero Cabin Waste

The Life Zero Cabin Waste Project is a pioneering project aimed at reducing cabin waste through changes in the design of aircraft menus. The project partner UNESCO Chair ESCI-UPF is responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of the proposed measures through the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and ecodesign methodologies, in order to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the management of the waste.

It is co-funded by the European Union, through the LIFE Program, which will runs until the end of 2019 and has been supported by Spanish health authorities, as well as organisations such as IATA and Aena. The project partners are Iberia, Gate Gourmet, Ecoembes, Biogas Fuel Cell, Ferrovial and ESCI-UPF.


LIFE Zero Cabin Waste

LIFE Zero Cabin Waste Informative Poster.


Reference article

Blanca-Alcubilla, G., Bala, A., Hermira, J.I.,De-Castro, N., Chavarri, R. , Perales, R., Barredo I., and Fullana-i-Palmer, P. (2018). TACKLING INTERNATIONAL AIRLINE CATERING WASTE MANAGEMENT: LIFE ZERO CABIN WASTE PROJECT. STATE OF THE ART AND FIRST STEPS. Detritus Journal.



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