Airlines and their caterers worldwide have been criticized for failing to take steps to reuse and recycle their cabin products. However, several airlines have taken steps to tackle the waste generated by commercial flights. These initiatives include reducing the use of single-use plastic (SUP), eliminating in-flight magazines and offering amenities only on request.
However, a far bigger problem is food waste. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the aviation industry generates more than six tons of waste on board aircraft every year. And 20-25% of cabin waste is uncontaminated food and beverages. This does not look good for the industry with big sustainability promises. So what’s the solution?
The possible solution
An IT consultancy and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lufthansa, Lufthansa Industry Solutions, is currently developing an AI-driven solution that will detect uncontaminated or partially eaten food, as well as unwanted dietary supplements.
The airline will use AI-powered food detectors to take pictures of the catering trays, which will be returned after each flight. These images are then analyzed by a computer vision AI system, which identifies the parts of the meal that were not fully eaten. The system also measures the weight of leftovers, giving a clear view 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, thereby reducing the amount of food returned. It will also identify quality issues or less popular food options, allowing the airline to make improvements if needed.
The technology is being developed in collaboration with the Lufthansa Group Clean Tech Hub, Lufthansa Airlines, Swiss and Eurowings Discover, and Lufthansa Industry Solutions (LHIND).
Not ready until 2024
In a comment to Simple Flying, a spokesman for Lufthansa Industry Solutions said the company’s AI-driven solution to reduce inflight food waste is currently under development and just completed a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) phase for evaluation late last year went through its feasibility and possible implications. Regarding the upcoming food waste reduction solution, the spokesperson told Simple Flying:
“A task force at Lufthansa Airline is currently creating a project roadmap that envisages further test runs this year. Lufthansa Industry Solutions sees the reduction of food waste as one of the major issues and a major contribution to being able to achieve ecological sustainability goals.”
However, Lufthansa’s Food Waste AI will probably not be available before 2024. The company has yet to provide concrete figures on how much waste reduction it could bring. Still, initial estimates suggest that implementing the technology could save 5-10% of all food produced for flights, added 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 made commitments to reducing inflight food waste by implementing similar AI technologies.
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Type of airline:
- Full service carrier
- Frankfurt Airport, Munich Airport
- Founding year:
- star alliance
- Airline group:
- Lufthansa group
- Carsten Spohr
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