This year, nine billion passengers are expected to fly around the world – and that number is expected to continue to grow. This rise in air traffic will also increase the massive impact it creates on the environment. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “air transport contributes to 4.9 per cent of human-caused climate change, including emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.” Now, airlines are looking for creative ways to tackle the immense impact of the industry. From innovative fuels made out of captured GHG emissions, to pledges to go ‘plastic free’. The newest example comes in the form of the world’s first zero-waste flight.
This week, Qantas announced the first-ever zero-waste flight from Sydney to Adelaide. While a typical flight on this route can produce “around 34 kilograms of waste, contributing to 150 tons of waste annually,” Wednesday’s flight implemented new procedures and products to eliminate waste. In addition to the use of alternative products during the flight including fully-compostable meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch, the airline crew collected the items left over for reuse, recycling or composting in multiple waste streams. The Sydney-Adelaide flight is part of a test to further improve its process and see how passengers react. Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David explains, “This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers.” The initiative also ladders up to the airline’s plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of 2020 and eliminate 75 per cent of the airline’s waste by the end of 2021.
The latest move by Qantas not only chips away at a major issue for the airline industry – with Qantas and Jetstar alone currently producing an amount of waste equivalent to 80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets – but also brings passengers along for the ride. In this way, Qantas can educate consumers on the impact of air travel, while also driving home how small changes (like removing single serve creamers) can ladder up to bigger impact – whether in the air or on the ground.