PriestmanGoode has developed a series of ideas to help address the issue of waste in travel. ‘Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink’ is the result of an internal research project that explored the issue of waste in travel, which in air travel alone amounts to an estimated 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste each year.


Travel is part of the human experience, but in recent years, the environmental impact of the industry has become part of an ongoing discussion about the effect of human behaviour on the planet. While there is much R&D into how to reduce emissions in travel, there has been far less attention on the vast amounts of cabin waste generated in passenger travel: from plastic cups and bottles to amenities and headphones. Using our expertise in aviation, product design, future materials and strategic thinking, we chose to address this issue and explore how we could rethink the travel journey using more sustainable materials, how to raise awareness and encourage a change in consumer behaviour, and how we change both the supply and the demand of products and services in the travel industry in a bid towards a more sustainable future. The project became an exhibition, showcased at the Design Museum in London in 2019, curated and designed by PriestmanGoode.



The staggering volume of waste and its processing, alongside the drive for reducing weight were the key principles across our solutions: our strategy and innovation team used this to map out the customer journey and explore which goods and services occur at each step. Along with our product design and CMF experts, the team began to develop solutions to minimise waste throughout the journey.

Rethinking the meal tray

A key focus of the project was to develop a new, sustainable meal tray, made entirely from biodegradable, edible or compostable materials. Our CMF team explored a vast range of new, food safe materials used across a range of industries, and worked with both established companies and emerging materialists to develop a solution based on circular design principles. The mealtray itself was redesigned as a skeletal frame to minimise weight, an important factor to reduce the environmental impact of aviation, while the food packaging is designed to fold into an easily compostable pack, which could ultimately be turned into fuel.

An airline mealtray made of sustainable materials, including wafer biscuit, algae, coffee grounds and coconut wood, shown alongside the raw materials that it is composed of

Rethinking the water bottle & refill

A survey of the travel journey allowed us to estimate that on average, a passenger may use as many as 10 plastic cups or bottles per long haul flight. This could amount to 3370 bottles or cups per flight. To address this, we designed a new water bottle made from biodegradable materials, as well as a water refill system to be used onboard flights. The shape of the bottle was also redesigned to be better suited to travel and take up less space in the passenger’s onboard environment. Made of cork and bioplastic, the bottle is reusable and compostable at the end of its life.

Rethinking the onboard service

Our team also explored different aspects of the onboard services that are provided on flights, from entertainment to sleep products, travel toiletries and amenity kits, or onboard shopping. Here we aimed to contextualise the environmental impact of these services by portraying the information in a way that consumers can easily grasp, all in a bid to encourage behaviour change.


Rethinking cabin materials

Finally, we also explored a range of new materials based on circular design principles, including nylon made from recycled ocean plastic, which is saved, broken down and transformed into thread to create new materials like carpets for the aviation industry. The benefit of materials such as these is that they can be recycled indefinitely. Material innovation is a fast evolving field, and new developments are making the idea of sustainable cabin interiors an increasing possibility.


IDEA Awards 2020 – Winner, Silver

Wallpaper* Design Awards 2020 – Winner

Fast Company World Changing Ideas Awards 2020 – Finalist

Crystal Cabin Awards 2020 – Finalist