We all love plane meals. But if you’re a frequent flyer, you might have noticed that airliners usually give you food wrapped with plastic or foil as well as plastic cutlery. Not really eco friendly, don’t you think? Well, this design might change the future of plane meals.
Design studio PriestmanGoode made a design that swaps single-use plastic for ground coffee beans and rice husk in order to reduce throwaway cabin service goods from meal trays to toiletries. Jo Rowan, associate strategy director at PriestmanGoode, said, “We all travel, whether for work or for leisure – it’s an integral part of our lives. But what we don’t realise is the waste we, as individuals, create in that process.”
PriestmanGoode’s decision to eliminate throwaway plastic was prompted by the recent legislation passed by the UK government in March 2019 to ban single-use plastic products such as plastic plates, cutlery, food containers and expanded polystyrene cups by 2021.Not utilizing single-use items, the outcome of the design was meal trays and cutlery which are partially edible and plastic-free.
Coffee grounds were used to make the tray. The tray itself comprises a side dish lid made of algae or banana leaf, as well as a spork which is made from coconut wood. The cup is composed of rice husk mixed with polylactic acid binder, with a cup liner made from algae.
Additionally, milk or sauces use edible pods made from soluble seaweed as their containers. As for water, the design studio created a reusable water bottle made from cork and compostable bioplastic. Banana leaf is used to make a lid for the side salads, and a wafer for the dessert lid.
“The idea is to eliminate plastic waste, and to replace like for like. Elements that are currently rotable (washed and reused), like the tray itself, would continue to be so, and elements that are discarded, like single-use plastic, would be replaced with a sustainable alternative,” Rowan added.
All waste items can be kept inside the main meal lid, which closes down into a compostable pack for more efficient disposal. “We want to revisit the provision of services so that passengers can keep getting what they expect from a great travel experience, but at a lower environmental cost,” said Rowan.
So far, PriestmanGoode is currently in discussions with airlines and rail companies, and the “dream” would be to turn their concept into reality across the industry. For now, their trays were only a part of a new exhibition at the London Design Museum which will run until February 2020. When asked about the trays being rolled out across airlines, Rowan said, “Obviously that’s the dream, that would be amazing for this to create traction and be turned into reality.”
The reusable bottle fits into seat front pocket of a plane, and is meant for repeated, but short-term use, such as the length of a holiday. Estimatedly, there are around 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste, including single-use plastic, earphones and food waste, is generated on passenger flights every year.
If passengers at Heathrow Airport departures lounges refilled bottles from water fountains, instead of buying plastic bottles, the airport said it could reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 35 million a year.
This innovative design can tackle those plastic waste problems. If the reusable water bottle becomes available around passengers, that would reduce “impulse buys” by travellers at airports. The square shape of those bottles makes it efficient for travel, fitting snugly into the pocket on the back of each seat on the aircraft as well as making it easier to pack, ship and store.
“There have been a lot of discussions in the public space that are about other industries, in the highstreet, petrol stations, but nothing really has been talked about getting people to question the way they travel. It’s not something we’ve heard of a lot,” said Rowan.
What’s interesting is that passengers would be able to pick and choose what they need prior to their flight from a list of items made from and packaged with sustainable materials. Passengers could alternatively choose to use their own toothbrushes and travel-sized toiletries instead of requiring the production of new items.
There’s also a reward scheme given to people who opt for the more eco-friendly and waste-free options. Rowan explained, “We don’t want to take anything away from passengers, but a lot of doubling up on things people generally travel with, means we end up with vast amounts of waste in landfills. We also know that service items are an important touchpoint for airlines, and a way they can differentiate themselves from their competition.”
Note: if you want to see the real design, you can visit PriestmanGoode’s website or Instagram page, because they haven’t updated their Facebook photos and YouTube videos, and that’s why I can’t give you real pictures in this article. Sorry for that!