Pere Fullana i Palmer, interviewed by The New York Times on aircraft cabin-waste management

The Chair’s LIFE Zero Cabin Waste project gets international attention after the increasing concerns on flight sustainability

  • 11/10/2019
  • 1 min reading time
Aircraft flying

The Director of the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, Professor Pere Fullana i Palmer, has been consulted by The New York Times reporter Emily S. Rueb to provide insight and opinion on sustainability and waste management in commercial aviation.

The article, entitled “Airline Food Waste Is a Problem. Can Banana Leaves Be Part of the Solution?” and published online on October 11th, puts into words the basic facts and figures of one of the Chair’s ongoing project, Zero Cabin Waste, funded by the EU Life Programme and run jointly with Iberia airlines, Ferrovial, Ecoembes and Gate Gourmet.

With roughly four billion passengers a year, cabin-generated waste is becoming quite an issue. However, little knowledge about it exists. As Fullana i Palmer states, “You cannot improve a system if you don’t know it”, opening the door to an unpleasant but necessary dive into lots of garbage.

The main results of the LIFE Zero Cabin Waste project, collected by the Chair’s scientists Gonzalo Blanca-Alcubilla and Alba Bala, based at ESCI-UPF in Barcelona, showed that 33% of all cabin waste was food, 28% cardboard and paper and 12% plastic. The soundest conclusion, therefore, was that in-flight waste classification for recycling would be a huge improvement.

There are many solutions possible, but long-range international flights, where most of the waste is produced, are under very strict regulations about how to manage leftovers and debris. However, Fullana i Palmer is optimistic because “there is a big push for saving our planet, and the tsunami is so strong that all sectors will have to adapt.”

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