Sustainable practices take to skies


The world is awake to the large amounts of waste polluting our oceans, but what about the plastic waste being produced in our skies?

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the total amount of passenger waste in 2017 was 5.7 million tonnes, the bulk being paper, cardboard and plastic.

Numerous commercial airlines including Qantas, Virgin, Tigerair and Jetstar have sustainability policies to reduce their impact on the environment.

Jetstar, Tigerair and Qantas all provide flyers with the option to carbon offset whereas Virgin has plans to reduce their water usage, food wastage and recycle uniforms and used coffee beans. However, this does not reduce the excessive amounts of plastic produced during flights.

But there is hope.

Qantas took their sustainable efforts to the next level this month with the airline removing all waste and embarking on its first zero-waste flight on May 8.

The two-hour flight from NSW to SA was a part of Qantas’s plan to remove 100 million single-use plastic items every year by the end of next year.

One thousand single-use plastic items were replaced with sustainable alternatives but individual Vegemite and milk servings were removed altogether.

Other changes include fully compostable meal containers made from sugar cane, crop starch cutlery, sustainable headrest covers and a rigorous reuse, recycle strategy.

However, not all airlines are so conscientious of their waste creation.

Australian flight attendant and YouTuber Rosalie Edith said airlines used a large amount of plastic because of quarantine requirements.

“Rubbish has to be disposed of in a double lined garbage bag,” Ms Edith said.

“On an eight-hour shift, we can throw out around five to 15 large double-lined bags of rubbish from both the lavatories and on-board rubbish collection.

“I would love to see these garbage bags switched to biodegradable options.”

Ms Edith said the waste generation problems was not just on board, but in airports too.

She said finding a plastic-free snack in an airport was impossible.

The average plane passenger produces 1.4kg of waste per flight, but Ms Edith said sustainable changes made by passengers could have a powerful impact.

“I believe that passengers themselves have the greatest potential to minimise the amount of waste produced on flights,” Ms Edith said.

Rosalie Edith discusses sustainable alternatives that travellers can use while flying. Source:

So, what can an everyday traveler do to reduce the amount of waste they produce while flying?

Ms Edith said it’s all about the simple things.

“The easiest thing would be to bring your own reusable water bottle,” Ms Edith said.

“[But passengers can also bring] bamboo cutlery, a coffee cup which you can use for cold drinks too and some snacks from home.

“Check-in online instead of getting a printed boarding pass and make sure you bring your own blanket, headphones and comfort pack instead of using the ones on board wrapped in plastic.”



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