Almost exactly a year ago, a ban on single-use plastics by 2021 was approved by the European Parliament. We’re all familiar with the problems caused by single-use plastics—they’re piling up in the oceans, harming marine life, and even ending up in our food in the form of microplastics. The group representing European waste management companies—FEAD (Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services)—supported this ban, while emphasizing that the goal should be 100% recyclable packaging items.
“I am confident that E.U. negotiators will succeed in deciding by December 2018 on a level of mandatory recycled content, to be transposed into E.U. law by 2025, which will trigger the uptake of plastic recyclates in beverage bottles,” said Jean-Marc Boursier, the president of FEAD (The New York Times), regarding the processing of raw materials that takes place at waste plants.
PriestmanGoode, a British design firm, recently unveiled a set of recyclable and compostable products to be used by airlines in place of single-use plastic items like cups, water bottles, meal trays, and utensils. The company has been redesigning the air travel experience for over 20 years and is now focused on reducing overall waste. The tray they have developed is made from coffee grounds, husks, and lignin (a plant-based binding agent). From this article on airline food waste by Emily S. Rueb, “The dishes are made of pressed wheat bran, and a single spork made of coconut palm wood, a waste product that farmers would otherwise burn, replaces plastic cutlery.” The article quotes Jo Rowan, the associate strategy director of PriestmanGoode: “If you picked it up, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t plastic,” she said. “Part of what we were trying to do was actually look at how we could make this a desirable product, as well as being sustainable.”
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the average airline passenger produces over 3 pounds of waste. “Passengers are increasingly worried about the impact of single-use plastics on the marine environment, governments are focusing on minimizing food waste, and airlines are concerned that the regulatory system inhibits their ability to respond to these challenges. In the absence of smarter regulation, cabin waste volumes could double in the next 10 years.” As consumers grow more concerned about environmental impacts of air travel, airlines are focusing more and more on reducing waste wherever possible. “We’ve developed a lot of guidance to airlines to deal with the issue of cabin waste,” said Michael Gill, I.A.T.A.’s director of aviation environment. “But airlines cannot solve the issue on their own. It’s vital [that] regulators understand the full impacts, including increased energy and water use, as well as CO₂ emissions that result from heavier materials carried on board.”