Dealing with Garbage in the Friendly Skies

I’ve never really thought about the trash problem coming from the sky. Not air pollution, airline pollution. I always fly with a full water bottle, and shun the little plastic cups that complementary drinks come in. Always better to be a little dehydrated and avoid the terrifying plane bathrooms that, when I was younger, was sure would suck you out of the plane. I will admit to being weak when it comes to pretzels or peanuts though. But otherwise, I’ve never really given much thought to the amount of trash, and especially plastic that is used and discarded from a flight. That is until now.

Airplane food comes with an aggressions amount of packaging. Photo: Jeff Greenberg/UIG via The Guardian

Apparently, plane passengers created 5.2 million tons of trash in 2016. Much of this is incinerated or landfilled. The Barajas Airport, in Madrid is working on ways to separate and properly dispose of this waste, and is looking into ways to decrease the amount of items used, including changing food packaging, and using reusable utensils. American Airlines has switched to using compostable paper cups on flights, and is diverting almost 27 tonnes of unused amenities to homeless shelters. Virgin Airlines is looking for ways to recycle much of their waste, including earplugs and headphones.

But these attempts need to be backed by a serious change in policy. According to the article, EU standards treat all trash that comes off international flights as hazardous material, and is required to incinerate them. The legislation as originally meant to prevent disease spread, but airlines are already under strict health regulations, and most of the generated trash does not pose a real threat.

As air travel increases in the next few decades, serious changes will need to take place in order to responsibly deal with the garbage coming from the sky.


Read the article here



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