Qantas Is Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics and Paper Boarding Passes

The Australian airline is aiming eradicate 100 million single-use plastic items from its flights and lounges each year from the end of 2020.
Sarah Ward
Published on February 24, 2019

Whether you're zipping from Sydney to Melbourne, or settling in for the long haul on the mammoth Perth–to–London flights, travelling by air comes with a significant environmental cost. As well as fuel usage and the considerable carbon footprint, planes are a hotbed for disposable items. Those plastic utensils you're using to tuck into your breakfast? The cup you're sipping your in-flight wine from? The wrapping around your blanket? All single-use plastics.

To help counteract the hefty amount of environmental waste created by soaring through the sky, airlines have started changing their ways — such as Portuguese charter outfit Hi Fly, which has pledged to become the world's first plastics-free carrier within the next 12 months. Now Australia's own Qantas is following suit, announcing a plan to cut its waste by 70 percent by the end of 2021, including eradicating 100 million single-use plastic items from its flights and lounges each year from 2020 onwards.

On their way out: 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers each year, which'll all be replaced by sustainable alternatives. In the case of coffee cups, for example, they'll be swapped for versions that can be recycled or composted. Qantas has already ditched plastic wrapping on its pyjamas and headsets, and gotten rid of plastic straws altogether. It's also scrapping unnecessary paper, so that means using digital boarding passes rather than physical versions as well.

The changes will come into effect across Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar, and while the company recognises that some single-use plastic objects don't have a ready-made substitution (highlighting some wrappings used for hygiene purposes, as well as heat-resistant containers deployed in meal preparation), it's endeavouring to find solutions there as well. It has a history in the eco-conscious space, at least where fuel is concerned — using mustard seeds to fuel its Melbourne–to–LA flights, and dabbling with fuel derived from cooking oil before that.

As part of the new waste reduction move, Qantas aims to become the world's first airline to reuse, recycle and compost at least three-quarters of its general refuse. "In the process of carrying 50 million people each year, we deal with more than 30,000 tonnes of waste," said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce in a statement. "That's the same weight as about 80 747 jumbos."

Published on February 24, 2019 by Sarah Ward
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