Why small things matter in sustainability

Why small things matter in sustainability

Small can be big, also in the airline industry. Did you know that last year Finnair recycled 506 tonnes of reusable waste? That’s equivalent to the weight of four A350 aircraft!


“We want to do more and better with less,” says Kaisa Jaakkola, Senior Manager at Finnair Kitchen. “Although Finnair’s passenger numbers have increased, we actually generate less waste. By the end of 2022, our goal is to halve the amount of food and plastic waste our catering services produce.”

Cradle-to-cradle: from bottle to slippers

Jaakkola notes that the circular economy is the way to go. But what does this mean for Finnair? One example is seen in the way we choose packaging materials for meals. All clean PET-plastic items, including plastic bottles, are recycled on flights and sent to treatment and conversion centres for reuse. In addition, the slippers that come in the Business Class amenity kit as well as the Nordic Kitchen salad box are made from recycled plastic bottles.

Zero waste to landfill

Finnair is actually a pioneer in inflight waste recycling. In fact, we’ve been recycling aluminum cans for years. All the waste produced by our catering operations at Helsinki Airport is either recycled or converted to energy, and nothing ends up in landfill.

“One step forward is to reduce the generated waste in the first place. We are constantly fighting for this and are now replacing some meals served on trays and aluminum boxes with individual cardboard boxes,” explains Jaakkola. As a result, Finnair will be looking at a reduction of 14 tonnes of plastic and 11 tonnes of other packaging material per year. “This saves a lot of energy, too, as the plane carries less weight and we no longer need to wash the trays.”

Another example of recycling is with our amenity kits: The unused and partly used kits onboard are either reused on the next flight or donated to charity. “So, remember to hand in your unused kit to the cabin crew after landing – this way everyone benefits,” says Jaakkola.

Other small actions towards less plastic and package waste are seen on domestic and European flights. We’ve started to replace individual milk packets with fresh milk poured from a carton – an idea that both customers and cabin crew have requested. And after renewing the packaging of the Nordic Kitchen fresh food selection, a single sandwich wrapping comprises 48 per cent less packaging material than before.

Enabling a cleaner future together

“Change doesn’t happen on its own,” says Jaakkola. “Customers can do their part by pre-ordering their meals on European flights.” This helps to reserve the optimal amount of meals onboard, which ultimately leads to less food waste and reduces the weight of the aircraft (which equals decreased fuel consumption).

Jaakkola also suggests that customers bring their own headphones with a standard audio connector when flying on A350 aircraft. “This little action of using your own headphones instead of the disposable ones can help reduce plastic waste.”

Although some of these actions might seem like small acts, their impact on the environment is significant. “If each passenger drinks one can of soda onboard, it adds up to a total of 1180,00 consumed cans per month. Now that’s a lot of stuff to be recycled!” says Jaakkola.

At the end of the day, none of this would be possible without our amazing cabin crew members, adds Jaakkola. “They are always ready to go the extra mile to include environmental decisions in their daily routines.”




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