This in-flight meal tray was designed to be biodegradable
This design for an in-flight meal tray, made by PriestmanGoode, features biodegradable elements. (PriestmanGoode)
Published Monday, October 7, 2019 3:13PM EDT
As a whole, society is starting to think more about the way air travel affects the environment, but there’s one aspect that rarely comes up in the global conversation: the waste produced by all of those in-flight meals.
One design company is hoping to spark that discussion by introducing an all-in-one, eco-friendly meal tray.
PriestmanGoode’s tray design consists of a cup, a spoon, one main compartment for food and three small ones, with different lids for each compartment. The meal tray was first revealed to the public in September as part of an exhibition called “Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink” at the London Design Festival.
Every single element of the tray is designed to be either edible or biodegradable.
PriestmanGoode explained in a press release that they wanted to get rid of plastic waste, and “replace like for like.”
This means that things that would normally be washed and reused, such as the tray itself, as well as the cup, are still reusable. The tray is made from coffee grounds and husks mixed with lignin binder, and the cup is made of rice husk with PLA binder. The spork is made of coconut wood.
But anything replacing single use plastic has been replaced with “a sustainable alternative,” that could be discarded safely, or even eaten. The lid for a dessert compartment would be made out of a brown wafer, for instance.
The lid for the main food compartment is made out of bamboo, and can fold up into a compostable container for waste or leftovers. The lids are also meant to suggest what foods is held within the container. Hence the wafer for the dessert lid. What goes under the green banana leaf lid? A side salad, the company said.
According to a press release put out by London’s Design Museum, which hosted the design festival, 5.7 million tonnes of waste is generated every year in the cabins of passenger airplanes. This waste includes things such as single use headphones packaged for flyers, or separate plastic packaging for things like utensils and food.
Jo Rowan, Associate Strategy Director at PriestmanGoode, said that they didn’t “want to take anything away from passengers,” but that they wanted to “revisit the provision of services so that passengers can keep getting what they expect from a great travel experience, but at a lower environmental cost.”
The company says that an estimated 500g of single use plastic is used per person per long haul flight.
The meal tray is not exactly a feasible thing to mass produce for use in airplanes, but the company says the conversation is the goal.
“While there is currently no perfect solution, this design proposal aims to encourage suppliers and airlines to rethink the meal service in a more eco-friendly manner,” Rowan said, adding that countries starting to introduce legislature to ban single use plastic have made this even more relevant.
PriestmanGoode specializes in aviation design, and has previously worked on design elements such as cabin interiors and seating with airlines including Airbus, United Airlines and Turkish Airlines before. For the exhibition, the company also designed a small flask to use as an efficient water bottle for travel, citing the need to cut down on plastic water bottles as an inspiration.