March 2012 | Besides taking measures to significantly reduce fuel consumption by flying new and re-engined aircraft, experimenting with biofuel, creating more economical flight paths and descents, applying winglets and nano paint in order to streamline aircraft even further, and reducing weight of cargo containers and cabin interiors (e.g, seats, trolleys), airlines have also come up with eco-initiatives that are more visibile to passengers, most notably onboard recycling.
As a spokesman of UK-based leisure airline Monarch stated when the airline introduced an onboard recycling program several years ago: “Monarch has been operating a paper collection scheme onboard its flights for a number of years now,” he said, “but feedback from passengers and crew highlighted the fact that the recycling of other items, such as plastics and cans, is a part of everyday life now which people wished to continue – if they were at home they’d be recycling the items, so why should they not do so on flights?”
Air France, which says it already recycles that 80 percent of the items used for onboard service, has now come up with a small, but sympathetic initiative, that shows passengers that it makes an effort to recycle as many items as possible. The airline recently began asking passengers on domestic and European flights to drop their free newspapers in a dedicated container when leaving the aircraft. Local businesses then collect the newspapers and recycle them. According to the airline, tests carried out with customers show that over 75 percent of passengers place their newspapers in these containers.
Air France says it also seeks to recycle its polystyrene meal boxes that are distributed on its European routes. Meal packs on medium-haul Air France flights are made of recyclable polystyrene and cabin crew collect and sort the used packs, which when recycled by the supplier are used to make Air France cutlery.
The onboard recycling initiatives by Air France follows those of carriers such as Delta and Qantas. However, in general, airlines have been slow to embrace recycling as quarantine, security and logistics issues complicate aviation waste management. First, by law, onboard trash is not permitted to be recycled on international flights because of agriculture issues. Second, if a flight’s arrival airport doesn’t have a recycling facility or the airport is not large enough to sustain a recycling center, the flight’s recyclables may be hauled away and unfortunately end up at a local landfill anyway. To avoid this, some airlines contract directly with a waste facility to recycle when this service is not provided by the airport.