If you’re trying to be careful about the amount of waste you create and what happens to it, flying tends not to be the best course of action. On planes, everything seems to be wrapped in a layer of plastic, whether it’s the blanket you use or the cutlery you eat with – and don’t get us started on how excessively the meals are packaged.
That’s why Qantas’ latest flight is such a landmark; the Australian airline claims it’s the world’s first zero waste commercial flight. The QF739 flew from Sydney to Adelaide on Wednesday and disposed of all waste via compost, reuse or recycling.
This is no mean feat, as the airline says this flight typically produces 34kg of waste, with the Sydney to Adelaide route producing an eye-watering 150 tonnes of waste every year.
While Qantas domestic CEO Andrew David says: “In the process of carrying over 50 million people every year, Qantas and Jetstar currently produce an amount of waste equivalent to 80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets.”
— Adelaide Airport (@AdelaideAirport) May 8, 2019
To achieve zero-waste, around 1,000 single-use plastic items were either substituted with something more environmentally friendly, or not used at all.
Swapped in were compostable cups made from plant matter, food containers made from sugar cane pulp leftover from refineries, and napkins produced from Forest Stewardship Council certified pulp. Unfortunately for Vegemite-lovers, individual servings of the spread were axed for this trip.
The flight comes as part of Qantas’ plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of 2020, as well as getting rid of 75% of the airline’s waste by the end of 2021. It’s a small step, but a really positive one – and a chance to test procedures that could be rolled out on a wider scale.
Chances are zero waste flights will (hopefully) become the norm sometime in the future, but who knows when that will be. In the meantime, you can take lessons from Qantas’ inaugural zero-waste flight by properly recycling the items you use on flights, and using electronic boarding passes instead of printing them on sheets of paper.