Qantas claims to have made the first commercial flight to produce no landfill waste.
All in-flight products on board QF739 from Sydney to Adelaide will be disposed of via compost, reuse or recycling.
About 1,000 single-use plastic items were substituted with sustainable alternatives or removed altogether from the flight, including individually-packaged servings of milk and Vegemite.
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.
Items left over at the end of meal service were collected for reuse, recycling or composting in multiple waste streams.
Passengers used digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags where possible, with staff on hand to make sure any paper passes and tags were disposed of sustainably.
The flight would typically produce 34 kilograms of waste – with the Sydney to Adelaide route producing 150 tonnes of waste annually.
The zero waste flight will be 100% carbon offset. Qantas says it operates the largest carbon offset scheme in the aviation industry, with a passenger offsetting their flight every minute.
From mid-2019, customers will earn 10 Qantas loyalty points for every dollar spent offsetting their travel from Australia, which is the highest standard earn rate of any frequent flyer initiative.
Qantas operated the first flight between Australia and the US using biofuel processed from mustard seed last year.
The initiatives are part of a plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics by end of 2020 and eliminate three quarters of the airline’s waste by the end of the following year.
Qantas domestic CEO Andrew David described the trial flight as an important milestone for the national carrier’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,” he said.
“We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it.
“This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers.”
The Australian national carrier’s waste reduction initiative has been called The Bowerbird Project, named after the Australian bird that reuses small plastic items. The name was nominated by a cabin crew member in a staff competition.
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