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Combating Cabin Waste: IATA Unveils SUPP Reduction Strategies

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released the Reassessing Single Use Plastics Products (SUPPs) in the Airline Sector report to aid airlines, regulators, and the airline supply chain in mitigating the environmental consequences of single-use plastic products (SUPP).  


The United National Environmental Program (UNEP) has taken a proactive step by convening an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to develop a legally binding agreement on using single-use plastic products (SUPPs) by the end of 2024. This report's release is timely, urging airlines to swiftly reconsider their strategy of using SUPs in everyday operations.  


Single-use plastic products are extensively used in the aviation sector for their durability, lightness, and capacity to meet safety and security regulations. However, the industry faces challenges with improved waste performance/ processing and finding sustainable replacements for SUPPs.  


Some factors that present significant barriers to improving the recycling and circularity of waste management in the industry are technical and operational limitations, lack of risk-based regulations, and the need for collaboration along the operational chain.  


IATA's Reassessing Single Use Plastics Products in the Airline Sector report endorses a sectoral approach with recommendations for practices from the beginning to the end of the operational chain.  


IATA SVP sustainability and chief economist Marie Owens Thomsen said, "Airlines are taking a comprehensive approach to sustainability that includes addressing the environmental impact of SUPP. The recommendations of this report will help airlines, regulators and the supply chain to manage the complexities of reducing SUPP. This includes finding alternatives to SUPP, creating a harmonised regulatory framework, and promoting sector-wide collaboration. Importantly, these recommendations take advantage of the expertise of all participants in the aviation sector to develop, adapt and implement the solutions best suited to an aircraft's unique environment." 


Recommendations from the report include: 


Airline recommendations: 


  1. Reducing waste at the source while assessing the need for SUPPs and setting clear targets for elimination, measurement, tracking implementation of new procedures, and of course, disclosing progress.  

  2. Introducing reusable elements for circular use by incorporating a closed-loop service while also measuring added weight of reusables on aircraft fuel consumption/carbon emissions in the long run.

  3. Facilitating onboard and ground-level segregation as well as undertaking waste composition audits for both passenger and cargo operations.     

IATA also conducted passenger surveys showing that more than three-quarters of passengers would feel better about flying if SUPPs weren't involved and would be happy to support fewer food and beverage options to help airlines achieve this.  


Brookfield believes that collaborations along the supply and airline operation chains are vital to reducing waste and increasing material recovery in a world where sustainability practices are no longer a choice but a requirement. 





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