Qantas has made history this morning by trialling the world's first commercial flight to produce zero waste.
The flight forms part of the airline’s mission to cut out 100 million single-use plastics from its planes by the end of 2020 and eliminate 75 per cent of the airline’s waste by the end of 2021.
All inflight products on board the QF739, flying from Sydney to Adelaide and staffed by cabin crew from the Qantas ‘Green Team’, will be disposed of via compost, reuse or recycling.
About 1000 single-use plastic items were switched with sustainable alternatives or removed altogether from the flight, including individually-packaged servings of milk.
Alternative products used during the flight include meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch, all of which is fully compostable.
At the end of the meal service, Qantas cabin crew collected the items left over for reuse, recycling or composting in multiple waste streams.
And the environmental practices didn’t end there, passengers were also encouraged to use digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags where possible, with staff disposing of paper passes and tags sustainably.
⚡️BREAKING: A world's first ⚡️— BioPak (@biopakpackaging) May 8, 2019
BioPak has teamed up with @Qantas to provide compostable foodservice packaging for the WORLD'S FIRST ZERO WASTE FLIGHT 🛫
👉🏼 https://t.co/2qMsVCA51u#changeisintheair #woketotheplanet #plasticfree #ecochampion #waronwaste pic.twitter.com/yD6o4h4iDu
Commenting on the groundbreaking flight Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the trial flight was an important milestone for the company’s plan to slash 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,” Mr David said.
David said a flight on this route normally produces around 34 kilograms of waste, contributing to 150 tonnes of waste annually.
“We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it,” he continued.
“Our cabin crews see this waste every day and they want it eliminated and increasingly our shareholders are demanding we do more to address our environmental footprint.”
The plastic-free flight comes as it was revealed last year that humans are ingesting microscopic plastic particles in their food.
Researchers say that people are eating tiny pieces of plastic along with their food – after a test on faeces found plastic in every sample investigated.
People from the UK and seven other countries took part in the study – and up to 20 pieces of plastic were found in every 10g of stool sample.
It’s not the first time that concerns have been raised about the impact plastic could be having on our bodies. Last year experts issued a warning that plastic contamination could soon be “catastrophic” for human health.
Seawater samples collected throughout a 45,000 mile journey on the Volvo Ocean race round-the-world sailing event have revealed traces of microplastics almost everywhere, including in the remotest waters in the Southern Ocean.
Other companies are also cottoning to the advantages of putting the environment first.
Last year we saw brands making waves towards tackling ocean plastic waste, including Head & Shoulders who released a shampoo bottle made using plastic recovered from beach shores.
As part of its “Clean Hair, Clean Beaches” initiative, up to 25% of its new packaging is made using beach plastic.