Gonzalo Blanca, researcher at ESCI-UPF, participated in the Sustainable Cabin Forum 2019, at Panel discussion 3. Plastic free flights – from vision to implementation, in which he presented some of the results obtained in the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) within the framework of LIFE ZCW. Gonzalo has answered some questions regarding his impressions of participating in the Forum:
Is there a conclusion that you have taken from the Forum?
- The main conclusion that I drew from the Forum was that all agents of the aviation sector were really interested in carry out their activity in a more sustainable way. Plastics were in the crosshairs of the entire aviation sector, although as said the Director General and CEO of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac, the elimination of these in the flights can lead to other problems such as the increase of emissions of CO2 during the flight.
Do you think that the change that is taking place in the aeronautical industry towards plastic free flights is the right position?
- Waste reduction is always beneficial. But when the packaging is necessary and the plastic is replaced by another type of material, it may not be the best option. In the aviation sector, the weight is very important since it is directly related to fuel consumption and therefore to the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.
- Therefore, replace a light material such as plastic, which in the case of aviation there is no risk of littering, by other reusable and heavier such as metal or ceramics, will increase emissions of CO2. For example, if we replace plastic cutlery with metal ones, we would be emitting 5 times more CO2 in the life cycle.
- On the other hand, if we opt for materials of plant origin such as bamboo we would reduce emissions during the flight due to its lightness, but we would be favoring other environmental problems such as the eutrophication of waters, loss of biodiversity, land use … all these related to massive cultivation of bamboo to meet world demand. It would be necessary to evaluate through LCA which is the most sustainable alternative.
What is, in your opinion, the change that should be done as a priority to achieve the goal of obtaining plastic free flights?
- European legislation is already pushing in this way after the development of the regulations that affect single-use plastics, so if everything remains the same, most of the plastic components used in catering will disappear. In any case, the use of plastics in the catering service could be reduced as many products are over packed. There are many alternative materials for packaging, such as metal, paper …
To what extent do you think that the Life Zero Cabin Waste Project contributes with respect to other projects presented in the Forum?
- The novelty of the LZCW is that all the agents of the supply chain in aviation are involved (from the catering, to the flight and ending up in the correct management of waste). In addition, onboard separation is carried out between recyclables and non-recyclables on all flights. Some companies only sort cans, for example, or only in domestic flights, but this one claims to have a total reach.
Do you think that the impact achieved with the Life Zero Cabin Waste Project will make changes at the legislative / administrative level?
- These types of changes are always long and tedious. However, I am optimistic and I believe that the LZCW will have repercussions in the short and medium term in the aviation sector. In the Forum I could see that the project was already known by executives of the European Commission and used as an example of a change to a more sustainable model, emphasizing the involvement of all the agents present in the process; from the design of the menus to the management of waste.
Panel Discussion 3: Plastic free flights – from vision to implementation.
Paulo Mirpuri, Gonzalo Blanca, Joao Luis Sousa, Paulo da Silva.