Jo Austin

Information is power and as airlines grapple with the growing clamour for environmental change, delegates at the Sustainability Summit got their heads around some hard-hitting eco facts delivered by experts in the field

Think smarter…

A&G Jefferson is an independent consultancy specialising in addressing environmental and sustainability challenges. It aims to provide clear, reliable and impartial advice to inspire responsible travel, and has supported the work of Sustainable Aviation for over seven years


“Airlines and their suppliers are facing rising pressures to address sustainability particularly around climate change and single use plastics. Aviation emissions are also growing at a faster rate, up 110% since 1990 compared to just 60% growth in overall global emissions. In addition, an IATA study at Heathrow looked at waste removed from aircraft flights. The results indicated that a typical passenger generates 1.43 kilos of cabin waste per flight. With 4.3 billion passengers carried in 2018, this potentially amounts to 6.1 million tonnes of waste – equivalent to 17,000 empty A380 aircraft! Some 40% of this waste is potentially avoidable with 23% comprising untouched food and drink and 17% of the waste being made up of recyclable material.

“Targets are in place to decarbonise the industry, and detailed plans to tackle this going forwards are being finalised. These targets currently aim to halve net aviation carbon emissions by 2050 and develop clear roadmaps that set out the opportunities to decarbonise the industry in the future.

“This will depend on smarter operations – more direct routings and optimised flight profiles; new aircraft and engine technology such as hybrid electric planes slated for 2035 and nextgen engineering; a switch to sustainable aviation fuels which can cut carbon life cycle emissions by at least 60%, and investment in the growing green economy.

Smarter solutions for managing cabin waste will also be key. The industry needs to invest in smarter cabin product designs too with end of life issues built in, and smarter collaborative workings on waste management across the industry and with worldwide governments.”

Face the facts…

The Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment is one of five global institutes at Imperial College London. It aims to drive forward discovery, convert innovations into applications, train future leaders and communicate academic knowledge to businesses, industry and policymakers. The Institute was set up to create a world-leading centre for policy-relevant research and training on climate change and the environment


climate calculations now conclusively show the change currently underway is being driven by human activities. Scientists call current times the Anthropocene era: a time during which humans became a major geological force.

“Globally, airlines emitted around 860 million tonnes of CO2 in 2017, up 26% since 2013. While this is often presented as ‘only’ 2.5% of the total global emissions, that is in itself more than the entire emissions of Germany and no one is suggesting Germany should not be making environmental change. While 2.5% may sound small, remember if aviation was a country it would be the sixth largest emitter in the world. Quoting this figure is a weak defense

Aviation also has a specific problem that it is on a growth path, with passenger numbers expected to be up to 8.2bn by 2037, so emissions are increasing and there is no clear industry-wide stategy to achieve decarbonisation.”

Rethink, renew, recycle, reduce or reuse

Now, New, Next (NNN) is an independent consultancy firm helping airlines make the right choices for sustainable inflight services. Arianne Van Mancius has years of experience on both the supplier and airline side of the fence.


“There is no question that we need to cut the use of plastics worldwide. Currently only 9% of plastics created are recycled. Of this, 12% are just incinerated and 79% are discarded into landfill sites or into the oceans. Something has to change and for airlines the EU Single Use Plastics Directive, banning single use plastics inflight, is driving change. However this topic is so new for our industry that there are bound to be some mistakes made, some green washing. If we are really serious about this change we have to look at the full life cycle of a product, but lifecycle assessments are very expensive and time consuming to complete.

“We need to rethink, renew, recycle, reduce or reuse. It is not just about materials used, but also about service and product design. Ultimately knowledge is power, options are evolving and it is about creating total transparency so it becomes easier to pick the right solutions.

“Knowledge is power, consumers don’t know what is good and what is not, but with clear transparency across you processes and products you can show them you are doing the right thing. Dare to do something different.”

Cradle to cradle thinking…

Rapid Action Packaging (RAP) specialises in delivering consumer packaging to the evolving food industry


“Never has it been a more pertinent time for businesses to embrace the sustainable trade, and packaging is at the heart of that. There was a tsunami of public opinion following the Blue Planet programme but it has led to a plethora of knee-jerk reactions and bad decisions based on poor science.

“The evidence points firmly to the fact that, although plastic pollution is totally unacceptable, carbon increase is even worse. In Europe, focus on the Circular Economy means designing single trip products (ie: make/sell/dispose) is now something from the past. All European manufacturers should now be designing for rotability, recycling or composting so long as the net result produces less carbon footprint than previous iterations.

“Thinking Circular from the very start is, I believe, the only way to create anything now. Cradle to cradle rather than cradle to grave. Reusing materials that are already in circulation rather than growing or mining new ones.

“The future holds grim challenges. Costs will rise, businesses will come under pressure and resources will run out, so making the best use of human and material resource in the airline industry is paramount.

“Some key requirements for a successful future are a single database all parties can use to assess materials used for products; a single standard for plastic used in airline packaging; more designing for circularity and the provision of the right recycling processes; vertically integrated waste management so waste becomes tangible resource; and better public communication that explains that, sometimes, for the survival of the planet, well-managed plastic is the best option.