The world's first zero waste flight

World's first zero waste flight.jpeg

During a recent interstate flight I was on, I started mentally tally up the amount of plastic and paper waste being generated during the three-hour flight.

Single use coffee cups, cutlery, coasters, napkins, sugar packets, stirrers, single milk portions, cans of soft drink, chip packets were all being handed out to passengers with abandon; it was enough to incite a full blown eco anxiety attack.

It’s easy when you lead a zero waste lifestyle at home, and shop at zero waste-friendly stores, to forget just how much waste is being generated on a daily basis.

So when I first became aware of the world’s first zero waste flight that took place last month, I was both excited and relieved that zero waste seems to be gaining more mainstream attention.

The Qantas QF737 service, travelling from Sydney to Adelaide, reportedly produced no landfill waste, and is the first step in fulfilling the airline’s commitment to remove 100 million single use plastics from its flights by the end of 2020, and reduce waste by 75 per cent by the end of 2021.

Speaking on the day of the flight’s departure, Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David revealed just how much waste is generated by the airline each year, and committed to dramatically reducing this in the future.

“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,” David said.

“We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it.”

On the world's first zero waste flight, approximately 1,000 single use plastic items were substituted with sustainable alternatives, or removed altogether, including single portion servings of milk and Vegemite.

Plastic packaging and cutlery was replaced with fully compostable alternatives made from sugar cane or cornstarch, and following the flight’s meal service cabin crew collected the remaining waste to be either reused, recycled or composted in multiple waste streams.

Last week, via Facebook, Qantas shared a photo of the huge bags of waste generated on an average flight, placed next to a much smaller bag of waste that was left over from the zero waste flight (of items which couldn't be recycled or composted).

The contrast between the two bags serves as a sobering reminder of what would usually end up in landfill following the thousands of flights that occur each day.

To find out more about Qantas’ sustainability efforts for the future, click here.