How can airlines tackle cabin waste? Recycling is one answer and ReTrolley, the brainchild of five 2015 Fly Your Ideas finalists from Brazil, is a practical first step. But what’s exciting is that it has now entered into production!
ReTrolley is brilliant in its simplicity. By enabling the separation of recyclable materials during flight, it answers a pre-requisite of cabin waste disposal. The students’ “Green” cabin service trolley, accommodated in the galley just like conventional equipment, consists of three customisable modules. They can be used to separate cups, cans and packaging for compacting or to collect liquids, whose disposal is a tricky issue for airlines.
The International Air Transport Association claims that in 2016 around five million tonnes of waste was generated in flight. Getting rid of it costs over 500 million dollars, a figure expected to double in the next 15 years. Yet ReTrolley’s benefits go beyond cost saving. Airlines face stricter regulation, increasing disposal fees as well as the higher expectations of passengers to minimise the environmental impact of the services and products they buy.
“In 18 months ReTrolley evolved from concept to a marketable product thanks to its simplicity and universal appeal,” says Matthias Reiss of Airbus’ cabin design office, who worked on the project from the start. The five students developed a demonstrator over the course of 2016, enlisting Airbus Corporate Innovation to find a local manufacturer in the shape of Sao Paulo’s 3D Systems.
A business model was soon identified with a little help from Airbus’ BizLab accelerator, and in mid-2017 the students linked up with Airbus’ customer experience team for a promotional tour. By then Airbus had patented the concept and airlines had begun to express an interest. That’s no surprise given that even in its infancy, ReTrolley was already a double award winner. In 2017 ReTrolley won the coveted Crystal Cabin Award – dubbed the aviation Oscars – in the ‘Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment’ category. The APEX ‘best cabin innovation’ award came next. The awards caught the attention of cabin equipment specialist Iacobucci HF Aerospace, which agreed to produce and market the ReTrolley as buyer-furnished equipment under licence from Airbus.
“We couldn’t have imagined when we set out that we would get so far,” says Fly Your Ideas team member Lucas Neumann de Antonio, who now works in the FinTech industry. “We were just a group of students committed to finding a solution for airline waste. It took a trip to Hamburg to see how ReTrolley had real-world potential. Now it’s magical to think that our ideas will soon be up in the air, helping to solve such an important problem.”
Got a great idea you just have to share? You can follow in the footsteps of the ReTrolley team. Discover the challenges and opportunities of Airbus Fly Your Ideas here.