Plastic-free flights and the future of sustainable travelling

October 23, 2019

In the world we live today, the airlines have the commitment to implement comprehensive and sustainable solutions in their operations and find ways to make a sustainable traveling.

Why are airlines eliminating plastic?

Airlines are significant consumers of single-use plastic, particularly those who execute long-haul flights. In 2016, airline passengers produced 5.7 million tons of waste globally, and that figure has likely increased.

Think of all of the disposable products you may have used on your most recent trip. From bag tags to coffee stir sticks, to headphones, to the plastic used to wrap hot towels, there is a lot of waste produced on flights.  According to an article by Simple Flying, the UEA-based airline, Etihad Airways uses more than 95 disposable plastic products on trips, and that figure is pretty standard amongst other airlines. That’s why airlines around the world are making strides to cut their plastic dependencies.

The first plastic-free flight

Hi Fly, a Europe-based airline operated the first known plastic-free flight in the world in early 2019. The president and CEO of the firm Paulo Mirpuri says his airline aims to go plastic-free by the end of 2019.

Eliminating plastic is no small feat; however, the company is taking steps to use wooden cutlery and biodegradable coffee cups to reduce waste. In short, it is subbing eco-friendly alternatives for its in-flight products, such as mugs and stir sticks.

“We can no longer ignore the impact plastic contamination has on ecosystems, as well as on human health,” said Hi Fly president Mirpuri in conversation with Canadian television network CTV.

Other major airlines have followed Hi Fly’s lead:

  • Ryanair has pledged to be the first to go plastic-free in 2023.
  • Alaska Airlines is striving to cut the use of plastic in-flight by encouraging consumers to use plastic water bottles.
  • Air New Zealand has removed many plastic items, including coffee stirrers and hairbrushes from its planes and lounges. Additionally, it plans to outright ban 14 plastic items — such as plastic bags, cups and lids.
  • Over in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the nation’s second-largest airline piloted its first single-use plastic-free flight in honor of Earth Day. The airline plans to reduce its use of single-use by a staggering 80%.

Why is eliminating plastic so important?

The amount of plastic produced by global corporations is staggering. Globally, 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year. However, only 12% of that plastic ultimately gets recycled. The consequences of this waste are significant for all organisms, including humans. Each year, trillions of microplastics get dumped into the ocean and swallowed by fishes, shrimp, crabs and other sea creatures. In turn, humans ingest many of these microplastics. According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, 11,000 pieces of microplastics are ingested each year by humans.  If we don’t dramatically reduce our plastic use, then humans could ingest 780,000 microplastics by the end of the century.

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