International Day of Zero Waste: Shining a Spotlight on Eco-Designed Document Readers

Last updated: 30 March 2023

The issue of climate change is one of the most pressing facing us all – with the spotlight firmly on government, big businesses, and industries alike – with the travel industry one of those industries consistently called into question.

A lot of this conversation tends to center around aircraft emissions – and while this is no doubt an important issue, there’s a wider drive for sustainability and energy efficient solutions across the whole travel sector.

International Day of Zero Waste

Today is the International Day of Zero Waste – an initiative which aims to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, support societal shift towards circularity and raise awareness about how zero-waste initiatives contribute to the advancement of sustainable development. As such we wanted to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on sustainability drives that might not get a much attention, specifically the airport sector.

The sector has set itself some very ambitious and strict net-zero deadlines. A prime example of this is ACI Europe, the body that represents European airports, is committed to achieving carbon net zero by 2050. In addition, nearly half of Europe’s airports have set themselves target dates of 2030 or earlier. This race to net-zero energy also coincides with the ever-pressing need to reduce energy spending.

As such, the airport sector is scrutinizing every aspect of the passenger terminal infrastructure – with automated document readers a prime example of this.

Making Automated ID Energy Efficient

Automated ID readers have become commonplace in airports today – and have become increasingly sophisticated. Even first time and infrequent passengers can scan their own passports and travel documents in a matter of seconds. As a result, perhaps the most notable use of document readers in airports is at the heart of automated, self-service passenger gates and kiosks. High levels of customers satisfaction, shorter queues, less staff intervention plus high levels of security are just some of the benefits associated automated ID.

Usually, speed and reliability are the number one factors for airport operators when selecting a document reader – but now energy efficiency and carbon footprint also must be front and center.

Given the high volume of passenger throughputs, even marginal savings in the energy needed to scan each travel document could deliver significant reductions in overall carbon emissions. The operating profile of document scanners can also play a huge part; while they typically need to be available 24-7, during quieter periods there could be lengthy downtime between passengers where less energy is required.

We recognize how important it is for the sector to respond – and as such at Thales we’re proud to have achieved the world’s first Energy Star certification for a document reader, the Thales AT10K.

What is the Energy Star Label?

Established in 1992, the Energy Star label is an important accreditation for businesses and consumers seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. Backed by the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the scheme provides an independent and authoritative means of identifying products that can demonstrate high standards of energy efficiency.

Our document reader, is designed to inspect and image travel documents, including electronic travel documents and 1D and 2D barcodes used by the airline industry on boarding passes and cell phones. The reader’s low profile and simple shape make it ideal for integration with self-service airport kiosks and automated passport control gates.

Certification was achieved via design enhancements that include introducing standby modes to minimize power consumption when the scanner is not in use. Compared to previous generations of the product, overall power consumption has been reduced by 28%.

Every Effort Counts

In the race against climate change and meeting net-zero targets, there is no one size fits all solution, nor one silver bullet. Instead it requires every sector to look at its operations, piece by piece and re-evaluate how they can improve and make more energy efficient.

Here at Thales, we’re taking a holistic and continuous improvement approach to eco-design. In line with our commitments to reduce environmental impact in all stages of the life cycle, new actions have been deployed to reduce the environmental impact of our ID Document readers.

First, as the best waste is no waste, we removed non mandatory accessories, such as the power supply, unless specifically required by our customers. This was made possible by the availability of USB power mode on the AT10K. Beyond saving the manufacturing of the power supply itself, it also comes with a reduction in shipping weight to our customers by 14% – reducing transport CO2 emission by the same factor.

With this change in shipment configuration, we then took the opportunity to re-design the packaging of our AT10K, reducing its size and volume by 32%. Not only that, but we were also able to make it plastic free, swapping foam packaging, plastic bags and plastic glass protection with paper based materials. This has not only reduced our overall plastic consumption and created a packaging solution that can be recycled after use, but it has also improved the end-use experience with a packaging design that is modern, easy to unpack and optimized for space storage at assembly sites.

Awareness days like International Day of Zero Waste are important as they highlight these important developments that sometimes go under the radar – in the race to reach net-zero and reduce overall environmental impacts, the more knowledge sharing across industries and sectors is vital.

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