SriLankan Airlines may have had a turbulent past year (even more so than most carriers), but that has not put the South Asian airline’s work on combating waste on hold. During the 41st General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in Montreal, the airline was praised for its signature upcycling project, beating another 118 submissions in the socio-economic sustainability category of the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (SMBR) Global Aviation Awards.

SriLankan Airlines’ upcycling project is called “Mathaka.” It aims to minimize the carrier’s contribution to landfill waste and reduce its ecological footprint by repurposing the airline’s scrap and leftover material into various second-life products. The project is conducted in collaboration with House of Lonali, a Sri Lankan organization that designs and manufactures upcycled lifestyle products. Furthermore, the organization focuses on providing employment opportunities to women from low-income communities.

The range of products includes travel bags, wallets, books, key tags and jewelry, all made from recycled airline uniforms, cabin interiors and other materials. They will be available to purchase through the House of Lonali website and retail partners, as well as on board SriLankan flights. The items were first showcased at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Sri Lanka in December last year.

The SMBR Global Aviation Awards

The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (SMBR) Global Aviation Awards is a triennial award that “reflects UAE’s commitment to promote aviation and the support to ICAO’s ‘No Country Left Behind’ initiative.” It was established in 2016 to recognize the contributions of business organizations and individuals “to the success of the global aviation industry.”

The awards consist of five separate categories:

  • 1. Outstanding Resource Contribution to ICAO Programs (2022 winner: China)
  • 2.1 Best Aviation Sustainability Program Category – Environment Pillar (2022 winner: Dubai Airports)
  • 2.2 Best Aviation Sustainability Program Category – Socio-economic Pillar (2022 winner: SriLankan Airlines)
  • 3.1 Research and Development Category – Aircraft Cabin Noise Challenge
  • 3.2 Research and Development Category – UAV detection Systems Challenge

The two Research and Development Categories were suspended in 2022 due to “participations not meeting the evaluation criteria and terms.”

Headwinds at home

Receiving the award may be a much-needed boost to morale for SriLankan. Following two years of prolonged restrictions due to the pandemic, the country has been tossed into economic crisis and political turmoil. Along with the war in Ukraine, its tourism industry, accounting for 12% of GDP, has been all but decimated. Annual food price inflation is at 85.8%, with the equivalent for non-food items at 62.8%. Many have been pushed into poverty, and protests continue in the capital of Colombo despite heavy crackdowns on previous demonstrations.

  • srilankan-airlines-ceo-interview-capa-live-getty

    SriLankan Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Year Founded:


    Richard Nuttall

    Sri Lanka


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