Life + Zero Cabin Waste. Tackling international airline catering waste by demonstrating integral and safe recollection, separation & treatment


zero cabin waste big

Topics: Ecodesign, LCA 

Year: 01 09 2016 - 31 12 2019

Financiación: LIFE + (European Union)



The Life + Project "Zero Cabin Waste" aims to create an integrated model to reduce, reuse and recycle waste collected on aircraft (including energy recovery) and establish the basis for other airlines to replicate this approach. The project focuses on recyclable urban solid waste (light packaging plastic, cans, cardboard, glass and paper) and municipal solid waste (MSW, the organic fraction mixed with other inseparable fractions) of Cat. 1 (international flights) and Cat. 3 (flights within the EU).

The project is in line with the improvement of the management of waste streams established in the Waste Framework Directive (WFD). It also promotes the objectives of "turning waste into a resource" of the 2020 Road Map of the European Parliament for a resource-efficient Europe and the Circular Economy package. In addition, the project will demonstrate possibilities of valorisation for Cat. 1 and will contribute to the updating of the pertinent regulations.

The project will be executed at Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez airport, where the catering company IBERIA GATE GOURMET currently accumulates around 6,000 tons of waste per year (4,000 of this Cat. 1). In particular, the project will include training for the crew and personnel, the implementation of equipment adjustments, execution of a a collection and separation protocol, the processing of waste fractions and the implementation of a pilot treatment for Cat. 1 waste. During the final year of the project, the model will be replicated at Heathrow Airport.



PartnersUNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPFIberiaEcoembesGate GourmetFerrovial ServicesBiogas Fuel Cell

Language: Spanish, Catalan, English



  • Demonstrate that with good management practices, commitment and stakeholder coordination, a large amount of cabin debris can be separated on board;

  • Demonstrate that Cat. 1 waste can be treated without risk to human or animal health. The project aims to show that current legislation is overprotective and wasteful, and aims to be an engine for policy change;

  • Contribute to the reduction of the high carbon footprint associated with the generation and inadequate management of cabin waste. The environmental impact of the project will be monitored through the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA);

  • Establish the basis for replication through standard protocols (in particular, the main strength of the project and its innovative perspectives lies in its integrated approach).


The Chair will evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed measures to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the management of these wastes through the Life Cycle Assessment and ecological design methodologies. The Chair will also study other environmental impacts such as ozone depletion or acidification of soil and water, and propose improvements based on the ecological design applied to packaging and processes.


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