Qantas operates first-ever zero waste flight as it plans to slash single-plastics and waste
Mon 20 May 2019 – Qantas has carried out what it claims to be the first-ever commercial flight to produce no landfill waste. It marks the start of plans by the Australian carrier to cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of 2020 and eliminate three-quarters of waste by the end of the following year. All inflight products on the domestic flight from Sydney to Adelaide, which was staffed by cabin crew from the Qantas ‘Green Team’, will be disposed through composting, reuse or recycling. About 1,000 single-use plastic items were substituted with sustainable alternatives or removed altogether from the flight, including individually packaged servings of milk. Customers were encouraged to use digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags where possible, with staff on hand to ensure paper passes and tags were disposed of sustainably.
Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the zero waste flight would typically produce 34 kilos of waste, with the route producing a total of 150 tonnes annually.
“In the process of carrying over 50 million people every year, Qantas and [subsidiary] Jetstar currently produce an amount of waste equivalent to 80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets,” he said. “We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy but without the amount of waste that comes with it.”
Other alternative products used during the flight include fully-compostable meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch. The Qantas lounges at Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal contributed to the ‘green’ flight by using multiple waste streams.
“This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers,” said David.
The waste reduction initiative has been called ‘The Bowerbird Project’, named after an Australian bird that reuses plastic items. The name was nominated by a cabin crew member is a staff competition.
In its efforts to remove 100 million single-use plastic items, Qantas and Jetstar will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and 4 million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives.
Qantas pointed out that airlines are legally required to dispose of some materials permanently, such as quarantined food from international flights, but said it was working with suppliers and governments to reduce the volume of waste.
Carbon emissions from the zero waste flight will be 100% offset, said Qantas, which claims to operate the largest carbon offset scheme in the aviation industry. Customers will shortly be able to earn 10 Qantas Points for every dollar spent offsetting their travel from Australia, which the airline says is the highest standard earn rate of any frequent flyer initiative.
Australian morning TV show Sunrise covers the Qantas zero waste flight: