Waste management

Waste management matters

The use of material resources such as paper, wood, plastic and food in our operations is inevitable. However, we recognise the impacts of using and disposing of these materials, particularly given the shortage of landfill space in Hong Kong. Therefore, we have medium to long-term programmes in place to minimise the impact of these materials to our environment. We also continuously examine options whereby we can reduce resource use and waste, all the while using materials from more sustainable sources.

Our staff are concerned about what they can do in the working environment. For example, flight and cabin crew want to see more being done to tackle inflight waste, while our ground staff want to see us take more proactive steps in offices and airports. This interest is important as many of our resource and waste management initiatives can only be achieved with the support of our staff, both inflight and on the ground.

What our stakeholders think

Over the recent years, the issue of waste has become a main concern amongst our stakeholders. With the shortage of landfill space in Hong Kong and the government’s policy on waste charging on its way, waste is a critical issue locally.

A decade ago, we implemented inflight waste recycling; however we are still under pressure from our stakeholders to reduce waste onboard, specifically on disposable plastics and packaging. Increasingly, stakeholders are also concerned about our strategies and programmes in tackling food waste issues, in particular the wastage generated from inflight meal services. As such, we are committed to communicating our reuse and recycle practices and engage with our passengers, cabin crew and cleaning agents.

Performance update

Up to

of material in the eight retired A340s aircrafts were recycled since 2015.

A total of

of surplus food donated to food bank.

Introduced an app-based

reporting platform for cabin crew. In the flight deck, eEnabled aircraft were introduced to reduce the use of paper manuals and charts.

In 2005,
11years ago

we begun recycling inflight waste.

Inflight waste recycling over the years

  • Aluminium Cans
  • Plastic Cups
  • Plastic Bottles
  • Wine Bottles
In 2016,


wine bottles were recycled.


aluminium cans were recycled.


plastic cups were recycled.


plastic bottles were recycled.


Recycling retired aircraft

With our aggressive fleet modernisation plans, we continue to retire less efficient aircraft from the fleet. In 2016, we retired three Airbus A340-300s and the last three Boeing 747-400s. When an aircraft retires from our fleet, we work with aircraft manufacturers, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA), accredited companies, and other companies specialised in end-of-life solutions for aircraft in order to find ways of salvaging spare parts, recycling or reusing aircraft parts and materials. A large proportion of the components can be re-certified and reused during maintenance – or alternatively sold to other users – through aircraft end-of-life programmes. Often, major components like the engines, auxiliary power units and various avionic and aircraft system components are removed to support the fleet.

Due to the planned retirement of 11 A340-300s by 2017, we began working in 2015 with a company specialising in end-of-life solution to recycle these aircraft. Under Airbus’ PAMELA initiative (Process for Advanced Management of End-of-Life Aircraft), eight of our A340s, each weighing 125 tonnes, have been retired and transferred to a workshop in southern France to undergo a recycling process. Up to 90% of their components can be recycled, reused, or recovered. The remaining three A340s will be retired by 2017.

Aircraft Recycling Steps:

Step 1: Decommissioning
  • Cleaning & decontaminating
  • Emptying tanks (e.g. fuel, portable water, WC tanks)
  • Safety procedures
Step 2: Disassembly
  • Equipment & parts removed (e.g. engines, landing gears)
  • Removed items are identified, inspected, and tagged
  • Equipment & parts could be reuse
Step 3: Dismantling
  • Hazardous materials sent to specialised waste handlers
  • Fuselage is cut up, sorted, and sent to recyclers
  • Unrecoverable waste to landfill (e.g. cabin lining, miscellaneous wastes)

For reuse upon conditions, such as:

  • Engines + APU
  • Landing Gears
  • Movable parts

For recovery, such as:

  • Fluids (Fuel, oils, hydraulic fluid)
  • Tyres
  • Textiles, Carpets

For land-filling, such as:

  • Cabin & Cargo lining
  • Polluted mix & wastes
  • Miscellaneous
Benefits of Aircraft Recycling
  • Increase recycling rate to 90%
  • Reduce waste sent to landfills to <10%
  • Save over 90% in energy from producing recycled aluminium relative to new aluminium

Cathay Pacific is committed to supporting aircraft manufacturers’ efforts to improve end-of-life recycling in the next generation of aircraft we purchase. Our range of more recent aircraft, in particular the Boeing 747-8F freighters and Airbus A350 aircraft, are designed to ensure high rates (approximately 90 to 95%) of material and component recovery at the end of their useful service lives.

Inflight waste and recycling

Since we started sorting, reusing and recycling inflight waste in 2006, our cabin crew have continued their efforts to reduce waste from our inflight operations. We continue to find ways to improve our inflight waste management by working around the various limitations onboard, such as storage space, tight flight schedules and procedures, and service quality. This is recognised as one of our customers’ key concerns.

Currently our inflight recycling is only carried out on inbound flights to Hong Kong. We are constrained by regulations in our destination countries where the disposal of waste from international flights is prohibited, and we are unable to bring the waste back on return flights for hygiene and storage reasons. However, we continue to look for opportunities to work with local authorities and other carriers to examine ways of treating waste at these destinations.

At some of the ports, such as North America and Australia, there are very strict health and safety regulations on international waste in place, including those from international flights which require their ‘deep burial and landfill’, or incineration. We continue to monitor any regulatory changes in these countries which may facilitate inflight waste recycling. Cathay Pacific is part of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Cabin Waste Working Group, which aims to address airline cabin waste management issues and where member airlines share best practices and updates.

In 2016, we recycled 10,799 kg of plastic cups, 20,242 kg of plastic bottles, and 22,066 kg of aluminium cans on Cathay Pacific inbound flights to Hong Kong. Similarly, 3,826 kg of plastic bottles and 1,516 kg of aluminium cans were recycled on Cathay Dragon flights. 568,148 kg of glass bottles were collected from Cathay Pacific inbound flights to Hong Kong for recycling.

Inflight waste recycling (kg)

  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014