In detail


Waste and circular economy

Our business produces a variety of waste: from the sheet of paper used in an office, to aircraft engine parts, staff uniforms and the cups our passengers use onboard. We aim to minimize waste and to recycle and reprocess whenever possible throughout the supply chain.

Air France has set itself a target of recycling or processing for energy recovery 100% of non-hazardous waste and 60% of hazardous waste by 2020. KLM has already achieved its 2020 objective of reprocessing or recycling 100% of non-hazardous waste.

Both Air France and KLM have set a target of 50% reduction in residual waste (non-recycled waste from the cabin and ground activities) by 2030 compared to 2011. In 2019, the Group reduced non-recycled waste by 31% compared to the 2011 level (see the environmental indicators tables, Universal Registration Document, section 4.3.6).

As a transport provider, we can be a catalyst in the value chain by procuring more sustainable and circularly produced goods. Everyone can recycle, produce less waste and adopt good practices. At the heart of this commitment are the “Four Rs” of the circular economy: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Our ambition is to take sustainability into consideration at every phase of the lifecycle of our various products and services. This begins with design, and goes on to cover every other process along the way.

We handle a variety of different types of waste, particularly waste originating from flight and maintenance activities, both of which are subject to strict regulations. Two thirds of our non-hazardous waste result from catering and onboard service: these regulations have a big impact on our waste footprint.

Reducing waste also provides a financial opportunity: several initiatives have demonstrated considerable economic benefits. We work closely with our suppliers and other parties to contribute towards the use of sustainable materials and resources throughout the value chain.


Air France and KLM run programs aimed at a constant improvement in the overall management of flight waste: waste prevention, increasing the recycled portion, eco-design of products and the identification of appropriate reprocessing facilities, with reducing residual waste as the main goal. For example, a significant proportion of reusable obsolete equipment, like trays, drawers, blankets and trolleys, is recycled.

Since October  2019, Air France has been selectively sorting its on-board waste.

  • This sorting, realized on all the short, medium and long-haul flights bound for Paris, concerns plastic bottles, cardboard juice cartons and aluminum cans.
  • The articles are sorted on board by the cabin crews then handled by Servair at Paris-CDG and Paris-Orly, before being recycled in France or elsewhere in Europe.
  • Every year, nearly 7 million bottles, 3 million juice cartons and 6 million cans are consumed on the company’s flights. The capability to extend the initiative on flights from Paris is being studied based on a regulatory and process analysis at each destination.

At KLM, the focus is on redesign to use less product packaging and catering materials, optimal loading, and recycling the on-board waste on all the European flights.

  • As of December 2019, the rotable tray used in Economy Class on intercontinental flights are recycled in a closed-loop after its end-of-life. The initiative has been nominated for the Hospitality Award 2020.
  • To prevent food waste, the Meals On Board System has been implemented to more precisely predict the number of passengers on board. In addition, a weighing system measures the number of sandwiches returned in order to determine the actual sandwich consumption on specific flights. This information allows for more precise loading.
  • Onboard recycling has been a best practice since years. KLM’s trolleys have been adapted to collect plastic and cardboard cups. Glass, cans, aluminum lids, paper, EPS boxes, PET plastic bottles and other forms of plastic are also sorted and recycled by the catering teams.
  • In 2019, KLM started to turn collected PET bottles into filament for 3D printing. The 3D printers are use in the engine shop to print maintenance items.

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. 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. At the end of 2019, 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).  

In December 2019, KLM was the first airline globally to trial the recycling of different catering items within a closed-loop system. During this innovative test, dessert and salad trays, lids, plastic glasses and hot meal trays – which, according to European legislation, would have to be disposed of on flights from outside Europe – were now washed and recycled into catering supplies.  Cutlery was reused after it has been washed and checked. KLM carried out this trial with recycled catering supplies to research the effects on the environment and to find out how scalable this closed loop might be.

In 2019, Transavia also committed to the progressive and significant reduction of single-use plastic items on board its aircraft by proposing, on its scheduled flights, certified alternatives to single-use plastic (Duty Free bags in Kraft paper and cups, stirrers and cutlery kits of plant origin, etc.). In total, more than seven million single-use plastic items are no longer distributed each year on the scheduled flights, or 41 tons of plastic.


We handle the food waste coming from flight operations while guaranteeing food safety and security, within a context of strict regulation. The regulations vary depending on the location and are often very exacting, like the European Regulation requiring the incineration of any elements having been in contact with food on flights arriving from outside the EU.

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 factors, and on passenger habits, the number of meals actually embarked is regularly re-evaluated. This re-evaluation prevents waste arising and reduces both production and transportation costs and overall waste. This also reduces the onboard weight, resulting in lower CO2 emissions.

Digital innovation enables customer demand to be more accurately predicted, like for example the pre-selection of hot meals in the Air France Business cabin. 

Rethinking some offers also contributes to a reduction in food waste. In 2019, the kit containing a stirrer and sachets of sugar and creamer was revisited. It was decided to leave out the creamer and offer this to passengers on request, thereby avoiding the embarkation and wastage of around 30 tons of products per year.  

Furthermore, when some foodstuffs or articles can no longer be loaded on board, they are donated to charities. The airlines  work with the Restos du Cœur soup kitchens and the Food Bank (Voedselbank). 

Air France-KLM Martinair Cargo is active in the perishable goods transportation segment. The teams maintain a permanent relationship with all the players in the value chain (producers, exporters, importers, supermarkets, airport authorities, etc.) to promote sustainable development in the agricultural and air transportation sectors. 

  • Numerous initiatives are under way: joint communication actions with the Paris-CDG plant protection department and exporter customers, improvement in perishable goods handling capacity and management of the cold chain, etc. 
  • The Group is also a member of the Cold Chain association and contributes to its work on reducing food waste. Within this framework, 2019 saw the definition of the priority measures to be implemented for the sustainable development of air-shipped exports of West African mangoes, at both technical (combatting fruit flies which degrade the quality of the fruit) and logistical level (improvement in airport infrastructures at Burkina Faso and in Senegal notably, and verification procedures at Paris-CDG).


We have a procedure in place for recycling metal aeronautical waste. Wherever possible, the cradle-to-cradle principle is applied to reintegrate waste in a new production cycle. The process foresees procedures to reuse and recycle spare parts. This program has been extended to other types of waste: furniture, equipment, pallets and blankets.

The move up-market for the medium and long-haul cabins with the installation of new seats has been accompanied by the implementation of a recycling and dismantling process for the old seats ranging from the reuse and recycling of components to the recovery of foams and metals.

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 two companies are working on initiatives to up-cycle waste for new uses like, for example, the recycling of used uniforms.

At Air France, a permanent recycling system is in place for Air France uniforms and work clothing.

  • Staff are invited to adopt good recycling practice by depositing uniforms and work clothing in secure containers in the Air France premises. 

  • Uniforms are collected (30.2 tons of textiles since September 2018 at the Roissy site) from the various sites and are recovered by different partners including a French Support and Work Assistance Establishment (ESAT for the employment of disabled workers), before subsequently being recycled.
  • Uniforms are thus recycled via the help of energy recovery in the form of textile pellets. Finally, these ashes will be used as fuel in the manufacturing of cement.
  • In addition, employees have launched the 100% Uniforms initiative to recycle these uniforms into other products such as a new collection of non-aeronautic accessories (pouches etc.).

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. In 2019, during the upgrade to Air France’s cabin decor, more than 25,000 blankets in Business were donated to AND. In addition, at the end of the Joon operations, more than 6,500 pieces of Joon uniforms were recycled via a donation to the SAMU Social organization.


At KLM, more than fourteen different kinds of waste are separated and recycled, including paper, metal, glass, plastic, wood, clothing, and electrical equipment.

  • For example, progress has been made on the reprocessing and recycling of aircraft components, polystyrene packaging and carpets.

KLM has launched multiple initiatives to tackle waste. Several partnerships with architects, startups and knowledge institutions, have resulted in innovative circular solutions.

  • For example, the use of 3D printers to print engine maintenance components out of  PET bottles collected in the cabin, and the use of old uniforms in office furniture and KLM goodies.
  • For celebrating the 100th anniversary of KLM in 2019, all goodies like bags, passport cases and baggage labels have been made from recycled KLM materials such as uniforms and redundant head rest covers

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.


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

  • Using Follow Print, print jobs are carried through only on request of the user at the printer, with an identification code and a confirmation of the printing tasks: since its launch in 2014, print quantity has been reduced at Air France by 30%, resulting in a savings of 36 million sheets of paper.
  • 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). In 2019, 252 tons of bio waste were collected and 113 tons of paper were recycled.
  • At KLM, recycling facilities in the office environment are being introduced at each renovation. In 2019 all office restaurants have been equipped with a recycling infrastructure. 


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.

The Group’s water consumption has been reported in the Air France-KLM Universal Registration Document section