Airlines and their caterers around the world have been criticized for their lack of action regarding the reuse and recycling of their products in the cabin. However, several airlines have taken steps to address the problem of waste generated by commercial flights. These initiatives include reducing the use of single-use plastics (SUP), eliminating in-flight containers and offering convenience only on request.
But a far bigger problem is food waste. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry generates more than six tons of aircraft waste annually. And 20-25% of cabin waste is untouched food and drink. This is not a good look for an industry with great promises of sustainability. So what is the solution?
A possible solution
IT consulting company and 100% subsidiary of Lufthansa, Lufthansa Industry Solutions, is currently developing an AI-driven solution that will detect intact or partially eaten food as well as any unwanted supplements.
The airline will use AI-powered food detectors to take pictures of food trays that are returned after each flight. These images will then be analyzed by a computer vision AI system, which will identify the components of the meal that were not fully eaten. The system will also measure the weight of food scraps, giving a clear idea of the amount of waste generated.
This new system will help the airline tailor its meals to the specific needs and preferences of each flight, reducing the amount of food that is returned. It will also identify any quality issues or less popular food options, allowing the airline to make improvements where necessary.
The technology is being developed in cooperation with the Lufthansa Group Clean Tech Hub, Lufthansa airlines, Swiss and Eurowings Discover, as well as Lufthansa Industry Solutions (LHIND).
Not ready until 2024
In a comment to Simple Flying, a Lufthansa Industry Solutions spokesperson said the company’s AI-driven in-flight food waste reduction solution is currently under development and has just gone through a minimum viable product (MVP) phase late last year to assess its viability and potential impact. Commenting on the upcoming solution to reducing food waste, a spokesperson told Simple Flying:
“At the moment, a working group at the Lufthansa airline is setting up a project plan, which includes further test runs during this year. Lufthansa Industry Solutions sees the reduction of food waste as one of the main topics and a big contributing factor to achieve the goals of environmental sustainability.”
However, Lufthansa’s Food Waste AI probably won’t be available before 2024. The company has yet to provide concrete numbers on how much waste reduction could bring. However, initial estimates suggest that applying the technology could save 5-10% of all food produced for flights, adds Lufthansa Industry Solutions.
It’s worth noting that Lufthansa isn’t the only one looking at this technology to reduce food waste. Other airlines, such as Emirates and Etihad, have also committed to reducing in-flight food waste by implementing similar AI technology.
- IATA/ICAO code:
- Airline type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Frankfurt Airport, Munich Airport
- Year of establishment:
- in 1953
- Star Alliance
- Airline group:
- Lufthansa Group
- Executive Director:
- Carsten Spohr