Air France – KLM handles many forms of waste, mostly arising from flight operations and maintenance, within a context of strict regulatory requirements. Across the entire supply chain, the Group strives to minimize waste and increase the proportion that is recycled or reprocessed.

L’investissement dans d’autres projets sur la connaissance et la conservation de la biodiversité contribue également à comprendre le dilemme associé aux services écosystémiques comme à la production des biocarburants durables. Si certains types de biocarburants destinés au transport routier peuvent avoir un impact négatif sur la biodiversité, le groupe Air France - KLM veut garantir l’utilisation de carburants aéronautiques durables qui ont l’impact le plus faible sur l’approvisionnement en nourriture, la biodiversité et un impact positif sur le développement local.


To achieve our targets, 50% reduction in residual waste (non-recycled waste from the cabin and ground activities) by 2030 compared to 2011, Air France-KLM applies the principles of the circular economy to the different waste sources. About 70% of waste results from onboard catering and the cleaning of the cabin. The remainder results from our production at our, for example, Cargo and Engineering activities, and only a small percentage comes from the offices.

Air France and KLM base their actions to achieve the targets for each waste stream on the four principles: rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle. In addition, we actively engage with authorities and our supply chain to seek solutions and remove any barriers to handle catering waste as well as the aeronautical waste, which are both subject to strict international regulation.

Reducing waste also provides a financial opportunity: several initiatives have demonstrated considerable economic benefits.


The catering and cleaning waste covers all waste collected onboard, ranging from used cups and cutlery to packaging materials and any items left behind by our passengers.

Rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle

All items on board are the constant subject of rethinking. Over the years, many items have been redesigned or replaced by a better alternative. Examples include the redesign of all items on the catering tray to consist of less material and the introduction of lightweight trolleys.

To reduce catering and cleaning waste, many items have been removed, e.g. magazines, or onboard procedures have changed to reduce demand. For example, by asking passengers whether they require a headset, pillow or creamer for their coffee, less items are handed out.  To further prevent catering waste, we apply optimal meal loading procedures. Two main levers enable a reduction in food waste:

  • the adjustment of the catering embarked on flights
  • a strict policy of merchandise inventory management

Based on statistics and historic flight load factor, and passenger habits, the number of meals actually embarked is regularly re-evaluated. This re-evaluation prevents waste arising and reduces costs.

  • The disruption of flight schedules due to Covid-19, resulted in unpredictable load factors. Therefore, optimal meal loading measures have been temporarily suspended. New measures have been established and will be implemented as soon as flight operations recover.
  • The sudden and significant reduction in the number of flights led to the non-consumption of many food products. Thousands of articles were donated to charitable associations and a number of hospitals across France and the Netherlands.
  • Since 2020, a the pre-selection of the hot meal in the Business cabin is available. This limits the amount of food and disposable cutlery waste, and reduces the mass embarked on board.

Reusing items decreases resource use and their environmental footprint. Multiple initiatives are in place to increase reuse of items. In 2020, KLM was nominated for an Onboard Hospitality Award for the design of its closed loop food tray. The trays are washed and reused unless they are damaged in which case they are recycled by the supplier for the design of new trays.

Recycling is an important part of our waste strategy for items that cannot be redesigned, reduced or reused. However, the major share of our catering waste is subject to strict regulation and may not be recycled.

  • Air France has been selectively sorting its on-board waste on flights to Paris since 2019. This concerns plastic bottles, cardboard juice cartons and aluminum cans.
  • Onboard recycling has been a best practice since years at KLM. KLM’s trolleys have been adapted to collect plastic and cardboard cups. A total of 14 waste streams, including glass, cans, aluminum lids, paper, EPS boxes, PET plastic bottles and other forms of plastic are also sorted and recycled.

Engaging with authorities on CAT1 waste

International catering waste is subject to strict EU regulation which classifies catering waste from outside the EU as Category 1 waste. CAT1 waste is a type of waste that has been classified as potentially dangerous to animal and/or plant health. All CAT1 Waste must be disposed of by incineration or buried in an authorized landfill, and recycling is prohibited. As most of our catering is served on board of intercontinental flights, this regulation forms the largest barrier in achieving our 2030 targets. Therefore, we are actively engaging with local and European authorities, other airlines and coalitions to find a solution to overcome this barrier without compromising animal and plant health. We support a revision of the regulation based on a new risk assessment.

Single Use Plastics

Whether for reasons of hygiene and food safety, or to reduce the weight embarked, the inflight service uses a substantial quantity of single-use plastic products (SUPs). We are committed to reducing the environmental impact of SUP in its operations and to comply with the European Directive on SUPs. We achieve this by:

  • removing SUPs wherever possible
  • replacing these plastics with other materials if more sustainable alternatives are available (based on Life Cycle Assessments or other environmental proofs)
  • redesigning SUPs to decrease material use
  • using recycled plastic or ensuring SUPs are recycled where possible

In 2019, to reduce its environmental footprint, Air France committed to replacing 80% of single-use plastic items with sustainable alternatives between now and 2025, while respecting the airline rules and health requirements. Air France gradually eliminated 210 million single-use plastic items, i.e. 1,300 tons (100 million plastic cups replaced by cardboard versions, 85 million plastic cutlery items replaced by versions manufactured and packaged using bio-based materials, 25 million plastic stirrers replaced by wood versions).


From engine parts to aircraft seats, and from cargo pallets to broken suit cases: production waste results from our Engineering & Maintenance, cargo and flight activities. Although most aeronautical waste is subject to strict regulation, we have implemented many initiatives to reduce non-recycled production waste.

Promoting the principles of the circular economy

Engineering and Maintenance prevents waste of aeronautical components by developing alternative repairs. Whenever reparation is no longer viable, aeronautical components are deemed Beyond Economical Repair (BER).  The components, as well as other aeronautical waste, are then sent to the inhouse salvation & scrap team. This team handles procedures to reuse and recycle spare parts and other waste. Wherever rules and regulations permit it, the cradle-to-cradle principle is applied to reintegrate waste into a new production cycle. Scraps that cannot be integrated within own production cycles and components that are under strict regulations, and thus are not reusable, are being collected by external partners and either demolished or processed into secondary raw materials.

At Cargo, waste consists mainly of wooden pallets, absolute cargo straps and plastic packaging material. In collaboration with our supply chain, we optimize the use of the items and develop creative solutions to reuse the materials.

The Group reuses and recycles the fabric of, for example, used uniforms, work clothing and blankets. Through collection of these items and collaboration with third parties, the fabric is redistributed, or reused or recycled into branded items such as bags or pouches that are avialable to our customers.

  • Since 2013, used KLM uniforms and old business class carpeting have been recycled into fibers used to manufacture carpets for the aircraft cabin.  All used carpets are recycled in collaboration with a carpet manufacturer Tarket, as part of the Take Back™ program.
  • To avoid the destruction of products and promote reuse, in January 2017 Air France signed a framework agreement with the Agence du Don en Nature (ADN). By donating new, re-modeled and recycled products like crockery and blankets respectively, Air France supports the work of the ADN association which collects and redistributes new non-food everyday products to combat exclusion in France


Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste from the maintenance activities is the subject of a comprehensive tracing system and its management is harmonized in the different maintenance sites. This approach is also reflected in the optimized management of suppliers and costs, and the search for more relevant solutions in the light of regulatory changes.


The main focus regarding office waste, which includes the catering at the restaurants and paper use, is on prevention. In addition, we collect materials where possible for recycling purposes.

We aim to reduce and prevent the waste generated by our non-industrial ground activities:

  • Within the framework of the NET project (New Workspaces) Air France has implemented a waste collection system enabling the sorting of waste, with the goal of 100% recycled waste in 2020. This system relies on easily identifiable color coding which facilitates sorting (bio-waste, paper and cardboard, bulky waste, plastics).
  • At KLM, recycling facilities in the office environment are being introduced at each renovation.


In our continuous effort to avoid water wastage and to reduce water consumption through better management of our processes, teams are made more accountable and environmental criteria is factored into the design and realization of our tools and workstations. Maintenance activities, and in particular the washing of aircraft and engines, use the most water.

Reducing water consumption requires innovation:

  • Air France Industries and KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) use the “EcoShine” method to clean the exterior of aircraft.  The process in which pads are used requires 80 times less water than the previous one: 150 liters to clean a Boeing 777, rather than 12,000 liters used before. Another advantage of this method is that it reduces the risk of accidents at work.
  • AFI KLM E&M has developed an innovative, environmentally-sound system to increase engine on-wing performance and lifespan. Engine water wash can be carried out during a maintenance visits to the hangar or the platform. The system optimizes engine performance, leading to lower fuel consumption (0.5 to 1%) and reduced CO2 emissions. The engine water wash is operated according to environmental principles: the water used during the process is recovered for recycling.