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Recycling - Nicht alles Müll bei Lufthansa Cargo.

It’s not all waste at Lufthansa Cargo

Waste separation and recycling in FRA: In 2021, the percentage of our waste in Frankfurt that was returned to material recycling was 37%. Here, 99% of waste is recycled for material and energy recovery (energy as a by-product or main product), which is around 2% more than in the prior year. And we are all working together to continuously increase this percentage.

Directly opposite the P53 is the Lufthansa Cargo waste disposal area – the largest in the Lufthansa Group. That means the work done here for the environment is all the more important. The more effectively waste is separated, the higher the recycling rate and therefore the better the conservation of valuable resources. Every day, mesh pallets containing waste are brought to the disposal area from the buildings, where the waste is sorted again, partly compacted, and then put into our disposal company’s large containers.

Approximately 800 tonnes of waste wood is accrued every year, which is equivalent to eight fully loaded Boeing 777 freighters. Once it has been pulverized, this waste wood is mainly sent by our disposal company for energy recovery. Another major item is waste paper, which totals around 100 tonnes. This ends up back in paper processing via our disposal company. Some 500 tonnes of waste film is fed into a plastic press and then granulated and sold by our disposal company. New plastic is made from this waste product. You can find out more about plastic film below.

Recycling - Plastik und Ladehilfsmittel.

Plastic and loading equipment

Every year, Lufthansa Cargo requires more than 500 tonnes of plastic film to protect its freight on pallets around the world. Some 25 kg of film travels inside each freighter. We are therefore working hard to explore how we as a company can use less plastic film – particularly when it comes to our loading equipment – and procure a more environmentally friendly product as well, while helping to ensure that it is disposed of correctly worldwide.

Recycling - Bereit für die Zukunft.

Ready for tomorrow

Plastic poses a problem for people and the environment in many ways. Raw materials from fossil sources are wasted on short-lived plastic products and the amount of plastic waste ending up in the environment, in landfills, and in the world’s oceans is rising sharply. The production of many single-use plastic products was finally banned in the EU in July 2021. Further-reaching measures are highly likely in the future, which is why we are already setting out now to take action as an industry pioneer.

Recycling - Biofolie im Test.

Testing bioplastic film

Our plastic strategy comprises many aspects, which we are constantly working on. We have already established that the single ideal green solution does not exist. We need to weigh up opportunities and risks, try out various options, and learn from our experiences. Our local sourcing activities led us to “bioplastic film” – and we learned that not all bioplastic films are the same. There is an important difference between bio-based (based on sustainable raw materials) and biodegradable (which is naturally more degradable than conventional film). We are currently testing the biodegradable film with the help of our teams in New York and Shanghai.

There is, however, no one-size-fits-all solution. Our disposal company in Frankfurt, where over 400 tonnes of waste film are accrued every year, has informed us that large volumes of this type of “bioplastic film” disrupt the material recycling process. At the moment, our waste film is used to produce granulate in Frankfurt, and then begins a new cycle of use.

Bioplastic films of this kind are viewed very critically by some scientists, who recommend that bioplastic films should only be used in areas where collection from the environment is difficult or not possible at all (such as agriculture). It is currently unclear which direction the regulations will take or in which sectors tougher requirements will be stipulated.

Recycling - Augen auf beim Recycling.

Beware when recycling

To date, we have relied on the fact that our used film is collected separately by handling providers at all our facilities worldwide and disposed of correctly by the airport operator. In reality, we are not entirely sure what happens to it in each location.

That is why we have enlisted the support of a master’s student at Commercial and Production Western Europe to find out whether our film is actually recycled around the world or at least being used for energy recovery. Our film is made of polyethylene (PE), has a chemical composition of 100% hydrogen and carbon, is fully recyclable, but also burns without residue to produce carbon dioxide and water, and is a welcome energy source for incinerators. Until we have certainty on this matter, we will continue to use the “more biodegradable bioplastic film” as it is less harmful to the environment at the moment.

Recycling - Drei Arbeitsfelder zum Thema Plastik.

Three fields of action on the subject of plastic

1. The top priority (also according to the generally accepted waste hierarchy) is that no plastics find their way into the environment. In order to rule this out and to ensure that waste is separated and disposed of in the most sustainable way everywhere, we are working on placing more responsibility on our ground handling agents (GHA). We have already formulated requirements in our supplier evaluations. The next step is to include them in new contracts.

2. Together with Global Handling Processes, we have adopted the reuse principle and expressly permitted reuse in our Cargo Handling Manual. It is now up to our individual facilities, working together with their GHA, to look at where they can implement this principle. In Munich, for example, bottom film that is still intact is already simply left on the dolly.

3. Our long-term goal is to achieve a closed loop with high environmental standards. That is why, with the support of Infrastructure LCAG, our Frankfurt team is conducting a trial in which it returns some of our waste film to our manufacturer Verpa, who will feed it back into the production process. Since May, we have been testing a film of this kind made of 10% recyclates.

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