Etihad Airways removes 95 plastic items – including cups, cutlery, dishes, headset bags and toothbrushes – from a long-haul flight

Etihad Airways has flown a plane from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane with no single-use plastic on board, which the company claimed saved 50kg of plastics from going to landfill.

The flight left Abu Dhabi in the UAE on April 21 and arrived in Brisbane, Australia on April 22, which is Earth Day. Earth Day is a global day to support environmental protection.

In a statement, Etihad said they “identified over 95 single-use plastic products used across aircraft cabins, most of which were replaced with eco-friendly alternatives including cups, cutlery, dishes, headset bags, cart seals and toothbrushes.”

“Where suitable replacements could not be sourced, these items were not loaded,” the airline said.

Chairman of Etihad, Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, said in a statement the flight is an important part of Etihad’s environmental efforts.

“Inaugurating 2019 with the locally sourced biofuel flight and the operation of the longest single-use plastic free flight are testament to our commitment to leading effective change towards sustainability,” he said.

Etihad told Business Insider Australia substitute materials used for products on the flight included glass, aluminium, lightweight stainless steel, as well as recycled paper.

“We worked with suppliers that have attained appropriate certification and operate in governance with deforestation laws to ensure that all materials and products used were sustainable, including all paper products being made from 100% recycled materials,” an Etihad spokesperson told Business Insider Australia.

The airline said it was committing itself to remove 20 per cent of all single-use plastics on board by June 1 of this year and 80 per cent across the entire organisation by 2022. Etihad said in their statement they also planned to launch an initiative aimed at reducing plastic bottle use by 1.6 million per year.

The global issue of plastics is coming to the fore, with restrictions from China in 2018 shocking many countries that previously exported almost all their plastic waste.

ABC reports that prior to the ban, Australia had been sending 619,000 tonnes of recycling waste to China every year.

However, the issue remains. Many countries who took over China’s importation of plastic following the restrictions have themselves been inundated with plastics and recyclables, with a lot actually ending up in landfill. In March, India completely banned plastic waste imports.

Meanwhile, the European Union committed in 2018 to phase out single-use plastics like straws, plates, cups and cotton buds by 2021.

Forbes reported that from 2021 the use of plastics for which no alternatives currently exist – mostly food packaging – will have to be cut down by 25 per cent by 2025.

The EU is requiring beverage bottles to be collected and recycled at a rate of 90 per cent by 2025. Cigarette butts will have to be reduced by 50 per cent by 2025, and 80 per cent by 2030.

All states in Australia except Victoria currently have container recycling schemes or plan to introduce them. Victoria continues to oppose any scheme, with the government defeating a motion in 2017 to introduce one and making no move to introduce one.

This is despite several recent fires in recycling facilities that have blanketed Melbourne in toxic smoke and ash and several local governments across Melbourne being unable to cope with huge stockpiles of recycling.

Victoria’s Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio’s office was contacted for comment.

Etihad said it was “challenging suppliers, caterers and airports to not only be supportive but more creative in coming up with viable solutions” to the problem of single-use plastics.

“What is needed now is support from all stakeholders within the aviation industry to make this positive change a reality for all airlines,” the company said in a statement.

In January this year Qantas and Jetstar committed to cutting waste to landfill by 75 per cent by 2021.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement the airline had removed plastic wrapping on pyjamas, headsets, as well as plastic straws.

“In the process of carrying 50 million people each year, we deal with more than 30,000 tonnes of waste. That’s the same weight as about eighty 747 jumbos,” said Mr Joyce.

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