Qantas runs world’s first zero waste flight to boost planet

Image: Supplied

The first-ever commercial flight to produce no landfill waste took to the skies in May, marking the start of Australian national carrier Qantas’s plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of 2020 and eliminate 75% of the airline’s waste by end-2021.

All in-flight products on board QF739, flying from Sydney to Adelaide, will be disposed of via compost, re-use or recycling.

Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the trial flight on May 8 was an important milestone for the 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,” David said.

He said this flight would typically produce 34kg of waste – with the Sydney to Adelaide route producing 150 tons of waste annually.

“This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers,” he said.

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.

At the end of the meal service, cabin crew collected the items left over for re-use, recycling or composting in multiple waste streams.

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 sustainability.

The Qantas lounges at Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal also went green for the flight, with multiple waste streams in use.

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 4 million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives.

Airlines are legally required to dispose of some materials permanently, such as quarantined food from international flights.

Qantas of Australia’s in-flight meals come served in meal containers made from sugar cane as of May
Qantas of Australia’s in-flight meals come served in meal containers made from sugar cane as of May
Image: Supplied

Qantas said it would work with suppliers and government to reduce the volume of this waste.

The carrier’s waste reduction initiative has been called the Bowerbird Project, after the Australian bird that reuses small plastic items.

The zero waste flight will be 100% carbon offset, with Qantas operating the largest carbon offset scheme in the aviation industry.

In 2018, Qantas operated the first biofuel flight between Australia and the US using biofuel processed from mustard seed, and in 2012 Qantas and Jetstar operated Australia’s first biofuel trial flights.