The world’s first zero-waste commercial flight took place in May 2019. Qantas flight QF739 from Sydney to Adelaide was the first flight to produce absolutely no landfill waste. All on-board food and beverage containers were made from 100% compostable or recyclable materials.
This zero-waste flight success marks the start of the Australian airline’s plan to cut 100 million single-use plastic products from its flights by the end of 2020. Qantas also hopes to eliminate three-quarters of its in-flight waste by the end of 2021. Flight QF739 was an important trial for the airline.
Qantas aims to eradicate in-flight waste
“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,” says Qantas Domestic chief executive officer (CEO) Andrew David. “This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers,” he states.
“We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it,” David says. On average, this flight from Sydney to Adelaide would typically produce 34kg of waste, or around 150 tonnes of waste every year.
Zero-waste alternatives served on the flight
Qantas successfully replaced around 1000 single-use plastic items on-board the flight, including plastic cutlery, packaging and drinking cups. Sustainable alternatives were used to replace these items, such as meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch.
These sustainable alternatives are completely compostable or recyclable. At the end of the meal service, the Qantas cabin crew collected the passenger’s waste and sorted them into various bins. Unused or unopened items will be reused, and the rest was sorted into recycling or compost bins.
Further sustainable efforts by Qantas
The airline is even giving customers digital boarding passes so that they don’t have to print paper tags and passes. Qantas staff collected any paper passes that passengers were carrying and disposed of them in the recycling bin.
To achieve its goal of eradicating 100 million single-use plastic items from its flights, Qantas will replace 45 million plastic drinking cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and 4 million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives. This zero-waste flight will also be 100% carbon offset.
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