SINCE last May, Qantas Airlines, Australia’s largest airline company, has started operating a zero waste flight that flies from Sydney to Adelaide. A typical Sydney-Adelaide flight normally produces 150 tonnes of waste yearly (which is 34 kilograms of waste per flight). On this flight, passengers’ waste will be composted, recycled or reused. None of it will go to the landfill.
They achieved this by making sure electronic bag tags and digital boarding passes were used. Around 1000 single use plastic items, including individually wrapped milk cartons and Vegemite, were removed from use or substituted from the flight. The Qantas “Green Team” also made sure that they had food containers made of leftover sugar cane pulp, utensils from non-GMO crop starch, paper cups with plant-based plastic linings and napkins that were fully compostable. All plastic drink bottles given during the flight are taken to a recycling plant when they land in Adelaide. The Green Team has also made sure to work with their food suppliers to make sure they minimize food wasted. In the lounges at Sydney airport, multiple waste streams are also used to minimize their impacts.
Andrew David, Qantas Domestic CEO, said that this is a milestone for their efforts to reduce waste. Both Qantas and Jetstar have targeted to prevent 100 million single use plastics from being used by the end of 2020. They have also committed to eliminate 75% of their waste by the end of 2021. These are not the only airline companies with zero waste initiatives. Portugal’s Hi Fly flew a zero waste flight and replaced their plastic utensils and plates with bamboo. The United Arab Emirates’ Etihad also tested their zero waste flight by using edible coffee cups made of grain and reusable steel cutlery. These mark a new perspective in the airline industry, which will, hopefully, reduce the amount of waste that it creates.