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The Economic and Environmental Benefits of Reducing Food Waste in Aviation Catering

airline catering food waste

As one of the most important aspects of the aviation industry, airline catering aims to provide a satisfying and enjoyable food and beverage experience for passengers on board. However, with the increasing number of flights and passengers, the amount of food produced and waste generated has become a major concern for the industry. In this article, we will explore how waste reduction can be achieved in aviation catering.

in-flight catering

Flight catering is a broad phrase that refers to a variety of catering services offered on board an aircraft. Meals, snacks, beverages, and even catering plans for special dietary needs are among the services provided. Specialist companies provide in-flight catering services in collaboration with airlines to ensure that passengers’ food and beverage needs are addressed.

Airline catering plays an essential role since it contributes significantly to the whole flight experience. Food and beverage service is frequently a crucial differentiator between airlines and can influence customer loyalty. It is also a significant source of cash for airlines, with estimates indicating that international catering waste generated in the aviation industry totals millions of tonnes each year.

What is the waste reduction?

Waste reduction refers to the process of reducing the amount of waste generated in a particular industry or process. Reduced food waste is a crucial step toward waste reduction in aircraft catering. This can be accomplished through a variety of strategies such as collecting and separating untouched food and drink, lowering food production, and enhancing waste management practices.

strategies to reduce waste in airline catering

Predicting the amount of food and beverages needed for each trip is one of the most effective strategies to reduce waste in airline catering. Airlines can better understand their passengers’ food consumption trends and change their catering arrangements as a result of artificial intelligence and data analysis. This can assist to limit the quantity of food waste on flights.

Another way to reduce waste in aviation catering is to improve waste management practices. This includes the proper collection and separation of cabin waste, including food waste, for recycling or disposal. Airlines can also work with catering services providers to develop more sustainable packaging solutions that are recyclable or compostable.

challenges to reduce food waste in-flight catering

There are several challenges that airlines face when trying to reduce food waste in-flight catering. Here are some of the key challenges:

Limited storage space:

Airlines have limited space on board the aircraft to store food and beverages. This means that they need to carefully balance the amount of food produced with the available storage space. If they produce too much food, it can lead to waste, but if they produce too little, it can lead to unhappy customers.

Unpredictable demand:

The demand for food and beverages on flights can be unpredictable, making it difficult to accurately predict the amount of food needed for each flight. This can lead to overproduction and waste.

Food safety regulations:

Airlines need to comply with strict food safety regulations, which can limit their ability to donate leftover food to charities or food banks. This is because they need to ensure that the food is safe for consumption and has been stored and transported correctly.

Cost considerations:

Reducing food waste can be expensive for airlines because they must invest in new technologies such as smart meal ordering systems and train their employees on waste reduction practices. This can be difficult for airlines that are already working on a shoestring budget.

Limited recycling alternatives:

Because recycling facilities may not be available at all airports, airlines may have limited options for recycling cabin waste, especially food waste.

Passengers’ preferences:

Airlines need to cater to the preferences of their passengers, which can be challenging when trying to reduce food waste. For example, if passengers prefer a particular type of meal, the airline may need to produce more of that meal, which can lead to waste if it is not consumed.

where does leftover food from planes go?

Despite these challenges, many airlines are taking steps to reduce food waste in-flight catering. By implementing innovative solutions and collaborating with catering service providers, airlines can make significant strides toward a more sustainable future.

So where does leftover food from planes go? In most cases, leftover food is disposed of onboard the aircraft and is either incinerated or sent to a landfill. However, some airlines have started to donate untouched food and drink to local charities or food banks, which can help reduce waste and benefit local communities.


In conclusion, reducing food waste in-flight catering is crucial for the aviation industry to become more sustainable. By improving waste management practices and using data analysis to accurately predict food consumption, airlines can play an important role in reducing the amount of waste generated on flights. With the use of innovative solutions and collaboration between airlines and catering service providers, the aviation industry can make significant strides toward a more sustainable future.