European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

A novel anaerobic DIGESTer solution in AIR transport for on-board safe and efficient waste management

Project description

Anaerobic digestion of airplane food waste

Airlines are a big source of food waste. According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines produced 5.2 million tonnes of waste in 2017, and the figure is set to double by 2030. While the statistic includes a host of disposable products, around 20 % is directly linked to the food service and another 20 % to packaging plastic waste. An additional important source of waste is wastewater from toilets. The EU-funded DIGESTAIR project is investigating the use of anaerobic digestion – microorganisms breaking down food waste in the absence of oxygen, removing pathogens and producing methane at the same time – to further improve onboard waste management. If successful, it will significantly reduce the environmental impact of passengers and will allow much more competitive management of Category 1 waste generated on international flights. The DIGESTAIR solution will be transferable to other sectors like cruisers and sea transport.


The DIGESTAIR project addresses the topic JTI-CS2-2018-CFP08-AIR-03-04 within The Clean Sky 2 programme and it can contribute to the Eco-design Transverse Activity in Airframe ITD. According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines produced 5.2 million tons of waste last year. Recent data from Eurostat revealed that up to 36% of the air passenger transport in Europe has extra EU destinations producing Category 1 ICW. The proportion of food waste and plastic packaging generated on board can account for up to 20% of the total amount of waste. Although some airlines are implementing standards to control and eventually reduce their environmental impact, new initiatives for a better waste management need to be committed. The DIGESTAIR approach seeks to promote a technological solution to improve waste management on board by taking advantage of the well-known anaerobic digestion (AD) process. However, the application of AD technology in an aircraft environment requires research and innovation efforts since no attempts are documented up-to-date in the aviation sector.
The DIGESTAIR project involves a methodology that will ensure the accomplishment of the specific objectives based on prior experiences by considering the technical, security and hygiene requirements for an aircraft environment. A flexible and adaptable anaerobic digestion prototype with two different configurations will be manufactured: (i) two stage anaerobic process, and (ii) an alternative with membrane filtration unit in order to minimize size and weight and maximize the energy production. The prototype will be eco-designed, light, safe, and cost-efficient in terms of energy recovery and ICW treatment efficiency. Apart from the prototype, a simulation tool will be developed, which will help to boost prototype design and will be a valuable tool for future analyses of different scenarios and upscaling.


Net EU contribution
€ 312 407,50
20018 San Sebastian

See on map

Noreste País Vasco Gipuzkoa
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 312 407,50

Participants (1)