Research from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), in conjunction with Qantas and the University of Queensland, has led to the development of wastewater surveillance on flights.
The first commercial flight to produce no landfill waste took off this morning, as part of Qantas’ plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics by end-2020 and eliminate 75 per cent of its waste by 2021.
With support from SUEZ, all inflight products on board 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.
Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the trial flight was 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,” Mr 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.”
Mr David said this flight would typically produce 34 kilograms of waste, with the Sydney to Adelaide route producing 150 tonnes of waste annually.
“This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers,” Mr David said.
“About 1000 single-use plastic items were substituted with sustainable alternatives or removed altogether from the flight, including individually-packaged servings of milk and Vegemite.”
According to Mr David, alternative products used during the flight include meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch, all of which are fully compostable.
“At the end of the meal service, Qantas cabin crew collected items left over for reuse, recycling or composting in multiple waste streams,” Mr David said.
“Customers 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.”
SUEZ Australia and New Zealand Director of Sustainability Justin Frank said SUEZ is proud to be supporting Qantas in meeting their waste reduction targets.
“SUEZ and Qantas have collaborated for over 15 years now and we’re looking forward to continuing to help them achieve their targets of diverting waste from landfill, using sustainable products and avoiding use altogether,” Mr Frank said.
“SUEZ is working with Qantas on other diversion and recycling measures throughout their operations, including head office and lounges to assist them with their waste reduction goals.”
Qantas lounges at Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal went ‘green’ for the duration of the flight.
“In its effort to remove 100 million single-use plastic items every year by the end of 2020, Qantas and Jetstar will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives,” Mr David said.
“Airlines are legally required to dispose of some materials permanently, such as quarantined food from international flights – Qantas will work with suppliers and government to reduce the volume of this waste.”
The zero-waste flight was also 100 per cent carbon offset.
“Qantas operates the largest carbon offset scheme in the aviation industry, with a passenger offsetting their flight every minute,” Mr David said.
“From mid-2019, customers will earn 10 Qantas Points for every dollar spent offsetting their travel from Australia, which is the highest standard earn rate of any frequent flyer initiative.”
Additionally, Qantas last year operated the first biofuel flight between Australia and the United States using biofuel processed from mustard seed and in 2012 operated Australia’s first biofuel trial flights.
The Qantas Group has announced a plan to become the world’s first airline to reuse, recycle and compost at least three-quarters of its general waste by the end of 2021.
As part of this, more than 100 million single-use plastic items per annum will be removed from flights and lounges by the end of 2020.
Qantas and Jetstar generate more than 30,000 tonnes of waste annually. A new Frequent Flyer initiative has also been announced to increase voluntary carbon offsetting.
Announcing the plan as part of the national carrier’s half-year results, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that business had a responsibility to lead on environmental issues.
“It is quite literally a waste and we have a responsibility to our customers, shareholders and the community to reduce it,” he said.
“We’ve already removed plastic wrapping on our pyjamas and headsets, as well as plastic straws. Even plastic Frequent Flyer cards are going digital. It adds up to millions of items a year because of our scale and there’s a lot more we can do.”
Some examples of changes to be implemented across Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar from later this year include:
- Introducing coffee cups that can be recycled or composted.
- Effectively eliminating single-use plastics by switching to alternative packaging.
- Removing unnecessary paper, such as boarding passes and operational manuals, by going digital.
- Increasing donation or composting of food.
- Recycling of old uniforms.
In targeting the removal of 100 million single use plastic items per annum, the group will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives by end-2020.
The group has an existing target to reduce waste to landfill by 30 per cent by 2020, which it’s on track to reach through recycling and other programs. The 75 per cent goal now takes its place. Separate targets exist for fuel, water and electricity consumption, and Qantas has the largest carbon offset scheme of any airline in the world.
Airlines are legally required to dispose of some materials permanently, such as quarantined food from international flights and hazardous materials. With support from industry and regulators, the group believes it can ultimately reduce the volume of this regulated waste as well.
Similarly, there are some single-use plastics used by airlines (such as wrapping for hygiene purposes and some heat resistant containers for meal preparation) that don’t currently have a practical alternative. Qantas and Jetstar are working with manufacturers and other airlines to innovate in this space to further reduce waste to landfill.
“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,” Mr Joyce said.
“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.”