Spotlight: Reduce waste

MUSCAT, DEC 9 – Waste and waste management have always been the point of attention for civic authorities as the volumes of waste being made by various sectors pose serious threats to nations. Year after year, exchequers are forced to set aside huge funds to either incinerate or to recycle the wastes which come in solid, liquid and gas forms. A major source of such waste, both plastic and perishable food waste is the Aviation sector which generates several millions of tonnes of waste every year as literally everything the passengers are served with onboard is wrapped in plastic resulting in a huge environmental problem.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as much as 5.7 million tonnes of waste were generated by airlines of the world in 2016, most of which was used for landfills and this number will almost double by 2030 to an average of 10 million tonnes. A report from the ‘Natural Resources Defence Council’ suggests that airlines dump 9,000 tonnes of plastic which is tantamount to volume of aluminium cans required to build 58 Boeing 747 planes, and huge volumes of newspapers and magazines sufficient to fill a football field of 230 meters deep.
Oman’s two international air gateways, Muscat International Airport and the Salalah International Airport, receive several millions of passengers annually. The Muscat Airport, awarded to be the Middle East’s Leading Airport in 2019 welcomed 28,775 flights, compared to 28,346 flights for the same period in 2018, an increase of 1.5 per cent. These flights carried 14.2 million passengers in 2018, compared to 12.8 million passengers in 2017, an increase of 11.1 per cent, according to National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI) report.
“A commercial flight landing at the Muscat International Airport would have prepared at least 300 meals (depending upon the load capacity) and at least 50 meals of the same are rejected by the passengers while the rest is half eaten resulting in utter food wastage”, Mohsin al Balushi, Director of Ground Operations at the Muscat International Airport told the Observer.
In the Gulf region, as many as 180,000 meals are prepared by the catering facility of a leading airline to service its more than 400 daily flights around the globe. If at least 25 per cent of the food is rejected by passengers outright and 50 per cent half eaten, the results would be shocking volumes of food wastage to those who are concerned about the environment.
However, budget airlines and no-frills carriers gain brownie points here by carrying food which is just sufficient to cater to those who have preordered the same.
“We only load what has been preordered or anticipate to sell. Plus, we use items with longer shelf life and keep reviewing the consumption to adjust what we load with minimum wastage”, says Captain Mohammed Ahmed, CEO of SalamAir, the first budget airline of the Sultanate.
“Our food wastage is either nothing or minimal as all flights ‘return catering’ is done”, says Prem Colaco, Country Head — IndiGo Airlines.
“It is our responsibility to spread awareness among our passengers not to waste food when millions go hungry everyday. Also, as the first low cost carrier in Oman we can say that we are more waste efficient airline,” adds Reena Rahman, Operations Head at SalamAir. “We produce less catering wastage compared to other carrier. Pre ordering meals has obvious catering advantages as it lowers cost and weight onboard which translates to lower fuel burn resulting in less co2 emissions and save environment.”