February 21, 2024

Working together to improve circularity

Matt Crane, one of the Founders of the Aviation Sustainability Forum, introduces the not-for-profit organisation aiming to rethink circularity and waste management… 

Each year the equivalent of around 260 A380s of International Catering Waste (ICW) is incinerated around the world. Something must be done. 

Current legislation dictates that as soon as food and beverage waste crosses international borders it is regarded as potentially hazardous and must be incinerated or sent to landfill. Globally, the burning and burying of cabin waste is contributing to increased carbon emissions and is having a devastating, long-term impact on the environment. As passenger numbers rise, this problem will only get worse and more challenging to resolve. 

In aviation, we face a tougher journey than most industries to hit net zero targets. Rightly, there is a lot of focus and effort to drive developments in fleet modernisation, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and operational efficiencies. 

Seeking new solutions 

Yet to achieve net zero we also need to focus on cabin waste and circularity. That means looking across the sector’s entire and fragmented supply chain for new solutions to become more sustainable. Product suppliers, caterers, airlines, airports and waste management companies – all of us  – have a key role to play in striving to reduce the consumption of valuable resources, to reduce waste going to landfill or incineration. 

No longer can we look only at ‘our piece’ – we have to look at the whole community. We are already looking upstream and finding more sustainable materials, production processes and waste reduction practices. But if we look downstream and see only incineration or landfill, what is it all for? 

The issue of ICW 

As we get closer to net zero deadlines, the treatment of ICW has to be tackled. To do that, we must take collective ownership of a complex issue that involves outdated regulation. 

To truly become more circular, we must come together as an industry and solve the ICW problem. With so many stakeholders and differing regulatory frameworks around the world, that represents a daunting task. 

We must unpick this and reorganise the supply chain to operate in a more sustainable way. That can be achieved with clear objectives and guidance. The Aviation Sustainability Forum (ASF) is here to facilitate and support that essential change. 

The ASF 

The ASF is a not-for-profit organisation and aims to enhance circularity in aviation. Consisting of a collaborative partnership of otherwise competing stakeholders from across the aviation sector, the ASF is an independent body whose mission is to unite the supply chain and build a more sustainable future for onboard products and services. 

Run by its members for the good of the overall inflight sector, the ASF will work with the industry to transform how ICW is managed across the supply chain by embracing circularity. Collaboration across the global aviation supply chain is essential to mitigate the issue of ICW. 

The ASF will strive to bring members from the inflight services industry together to develop sustainable solutions and standards while campaigning to overcome the regulatory and policy barriers currently hindering progress. 

Looking at other international industries which have managed to achieve this, such as the construction industry, there is much to learn from introducing standardisation. Standardising the materials loaded onboard aircraft will enable the standardisation of waste management practices at the end of the supply chain. 

Where we are 

The current regulatory framework is based on protecting the agricultural sector, with respect to animal health. So in order to challenge the regulations, the industry will need to demonstrate that new practices result in safe waste that negates regulatory concerns and can be reused, recycled, biodegraded or composted. 

We need to come together as an industry and recognise that this is a problem shared by all of us in the supply chain. The only way to really solve it is to work together. 

Funding change 

The ASF is building membership from within the aviation sector and has received seed funding from early members. Further funding will be sought from growing the membership of the ASF as well as seeking opportunities that lie outside of the sector.

Our funding will be put to use further analysing the current situation and then establishing regional pilot schemes to trial new and improved ways of working. The ultimate aim is to transform the supply chain to operate in a more sustainable way. 

The issue of ICW cannot be ignored any longer. The time has come for action. That action has to come from all of us in the inflight supply chain – working together in a truly collaborative process. Let’s get started. 

For more information on how you can get involved, please contact the ASF via info@aviationsustainabilityforum.com or visit our website, aviationsustainabilityforum.com