Australia’s Qantas Airways just launched what is being called “the world’s first-ever zero-waste flight” from Sydney last week. This marks the start of the airline’s proposed plan to eliminate 75% of the airline’s waste by the end of 2021.

Qantas flight F739 departed from Sydney to Adelaide last Wednesday (8 May). It was the first commercial flight to produce no landfill waste, as all inflight products used could be disposed of via compost, reuse, or recycling.

Qantas A380 airplane docked at Melbouren Airport
Melbourne, Australia – May 26, 2017: Qantas A380 airplane docked for loading luggage and catering at Melbourne Airport.

The same two-hour flight usually produces over 34kg of waste per flight and over 150 tonnes of waste annually. As Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said: “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”.

Qantas operates the first zero-waste flight ever

During the flight, about 1000 single-use plastics were replaced with more sustainable alternatives. These included containers made from sugar cane, and cutlery from crop starch, both by eco-friendly packaging company BioPak. Many items, such as individually packed milk and Vegemite, were removed.

BioPak supplied eco-friendly food and drink packaging Qantas
Packaging company BioPak supplied eco-friendly food and drink holders. Image by Qantas/BioPak

“We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it,” said Mr David. Customers were also encouraged to use digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags. The Qantas lounges at Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal also went ‘green’ specially for the flight, using multiple waste streams.

Qantas’ waste reduction initiative has been called The Bowerbird Project. It is named after an Australian bird that reuses small plastic items. With its target set to remove 100 million single-use plastic items each year by 2020, Qantas (and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar) will replace 45 million plastic cups; 30 million cutlery sets; 21 million coffee cups; and 4 million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives. You can find out more at their website here.



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