Qantas is getting rid of some of the extra baggage it has been carrying around. The Australian airline just announced a plan to become the world’s first airline to reuse, recycle, and compost at least three-quarters of its trash by the end of 2021. Since plastic still doesn’t biodegrade or easily recycle, Qantas also plans to remove more than 100 million single-use plastic items that it uses in flights and lounges by the end of 2020. It also announced a new Frequent Flyer initiative to increase voluntary carbon offsetting. This may be the most ambitious waste reduction target of any major airline anywhere on the planet—and the planet really needs the help.
Qantas made the announcement after a little self-reflection. “In the process of carrying 50 million people each year, we deal with more than 30,000 tons of waste. That’s the same weight as about eighty 747 jumbos,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, unveiling the airline’s plan.
Some of the eco-friendly changes that Qantas and its partners QantasLink and Jetstar plan to roll out across their flights include:
- New coffee cups that can be recycled or composted
- 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
- Replacing plastic from cups to headrest covers with sustainable alternatives by the end of 2020
It also has separate targets to curb fuel, water, and electricity consumption, and Qantas has the largest carbon offset scheme of any airline in the world.
It’s complicated for an airline to get rid of plastic, because even the most eco-conscious among us like our pillows and blankets and silverware and complimentary toothbrushes wrapped in plastic. While customer thinking catches up, the airline is working with manufacturers to come up with practical alternatives. That’s the kind of innovation that the industry—and the planet—needs. Hopefully, Qantas’ leadership will show other airlines that it can be done.