Australia’s national airline Qantas will reuse and recycle three-quarters of its general waste by 2021 as part of a sustainability program that embodies the “most ambitious waste reduction targets of any major airline."
The Qantas Group will also remove 100 million single-use plastic products per year by 2020 by replacing 45 million plastic cups, 30 million disposable utensils, 21 million coffee cups, and 4 million plastic headrest covers with biodegradable alternatives.
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"In the process of carrying 50 million people each year, we deal with more than 30,000 tons of waste,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a media release. “It is quite literally a waste, and we have a responsibility to our customers, shareholders, and the community to reduce it.”
It’s a world-first for an airline group. By 2021, Qantas and Jetstar will cut 75 per cent of our waste. And from the end of 2020, we will use 100 million less single-use plastics every year. pic.twitter.com/fiNglSrKAa— Qantas (@Qantas) February 21, 2019
Qantas and its partners QantasLink and Jetstar have previously eliminated all plastic straws from their flights and lounges, as well as plastic wrapping on pajamas and headsets. In the next 12 months, paper boarding passes will become obsolete, plastic Frequent Flyer cards will go digital, and all old uniforms will be recycled.
Qantas also has the most comprehnsive carbon offset scheme of any airline and has targets to limit water, electricity, and fuel use.
"Few industries can eradicate waste completely, but with this program, we’re saying that avoidable waste should no longer be an acceptable by-product of how we do business,” Joyce stated. “This isn’t just the right thing to do, it is good for business and will put us ahead of legislative requirements in the various countries we operate in, where there is an end-date on various single-use plastics.”
The world creates over 380 million metric tons of plastic each year. Over 75% of all plastic produced is thrown into landfills, while 8 million metric tons is dumped in the ocean annually. Should the growing waste trend continue, there will be more plastic waste in oceans than fish by 2050.
The mounting plastic problem has also prompted other airlines to take action.
Irish airline Ryanair has announced plans to cut plastic from all operations by 2023 while Delta Airlines has ramped up constraints around hazardous waste. In May 2018, Alaska Airlines became the first US airline to ban plastic straws on its planes and in all lounges.