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Fly Your Ideas success story: Sustainable inflight trolley design takes to the skies

May 01, 2019
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Cabin waste is a growing problem in the aerospace industry. More than 5 million tonnes was generated last year costing the industry over $500m with figures set to double by 2030, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Most of this waste ends up in landfills or incinerators.

In 2015, five students from the University of São Paolo, Brazil, came up with a greener solution. They entered the Airbus Fly Your Ideas competition and were selected as the runners up.

Their idea? Retrolley: an inflight trolley with three customisable modules for collecting liquids, cups and cans. The design enables cabin crew to quickly and easily separate waste into recyclable and non-recyclable categories, facilitating the reduction of waste volume by more than 20 percent.

Four years later, Retrolley has received expressions of interest from 40 airlines.

Airlines have three key concerns for cabin waste management: sustainability and recycling, waste storage and handling of liquid waste. Matthias Reiss, Airbus Cabin Engineering, says that Retrolley ‘addresses all three building bricks at once.’

Following the Fly Your Ideas competition, Retrolley was selected for Airbus’ BizLab accelerator, receiving support from a range of Airbus stakeholders including Corporate Innovation, Marketing, Procurement, Legal and Engineering. The project went on to win a Crystal Cabin Award in 2017.

The journey started with Fly Your Ideas, but what’s next for Retrolley? Cabin insert manufacturer Iacobucci has recently launched the next stage of development with mass production, testing and marketing it with airlines and caterers. Two flight trials have been performed within the Airbus Sustainable Aviation Engagement Programme, and the Retrolley team hopes to take the design to market very soon.

Frederic Eychenne, Sustainable Aviation Engagement Programme Manager at Airbus, says: ‘Airbus is committed to the environment. It’s in our DNA to propose innovative solutions to our customers to make cleaner and more sustainable products for the transportation of tomorrow.’

Stay tuned for the Live Final in June 2019 to see if this year’s finalist teams have what it takes to follow in Retrolley’s footsteps!

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