Qantas removes 34 kilograms of plastics from a flight – including individual servings of Vegemite

Qantas cabin crew, David Speirs MP South Australian Environment & Water Minister and Andrew Parker Qantas Group Executive Government & Sustainability
  • Qantas removed 34 kilograms of plastics on its first ‘zero-waste’ flight and replaced them with compostable and recyclable products.
  • The increased costs from compostable products will not be passed on to passengers, Qantas said.
  • CEO of BioPak, which made the compostable products, says higher volumes of products will bring down costs.

Qantas made its first zero-waste flight from Sydney to Adelaide on Wednesday – and challenged other airlines to step up and do the same.

The company removed 34 kilograms of plastic from the flight and substituted it for reusable, compostable and recyclable products.

Speaking to the media Wednesday morning at Qantas Domestic Terminal in Sydney, Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the day marked the beginning of the airlines move to zero-waste flights across the business and called on the entire airline industry to get on board.

“The whole industry needs to be committed to this, the whole world needs to be committed to this, there is too much plastic in the world, we all know we’ve got to address it,” he said. “We’re planning every flight will be like this.”

David said that Qantas is committed to reducing waste on all its flights by 75 per cent by 2021. He said they plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics from their supply chain by the end of 2020. That’s 45 million plastic cups, 30 million pieces of cutlery, 21 million coffee cups, and 4 million headrest covers.

“Our cabin crews see this waste every day and they want it eliminated and increasingly our shareholders are demanding we do more to address our environmental footprint,” David said.

On the flight from Sydney to Adelaide, the cutlery, bowls and plates were made from corn starch and sugar cane residue, meaning you could eat your knife and fork. It makes up for the fact individual servings of milk and Vegemite will no longer be available.

Qantas said the reason why more plastic couldn’t be removed from the supply chain were due to quarantine requirements. “There are some items which we just don’t have a solution to eliminate,” David said.

Etihad Airways recently trialled a flight, where it removed 95 plastic items and substituted them with recyclable or reusable products. The flight saved 50 kilograms of waste from going to landfill, according to the airline.

At the time, Etihad committed itself to remove 20 per cent of all single-use plastics on its flights by June 1 of this year and 80 per cent across the entire organisation by 2022.

This is also not the first move on sustainability from Qantas, last year the airline ran the first biofuel flight from Australia to the USA, powered on mustard seeds.

All products in Qantas’ zero-waste flight were made of corn, sugar cane by-product, and sustainably sourced paper

Cost of being clean not going to hit the customer

The cost of replacing these products with compostable materials will not be passed on to ticket holders, David said. Instead, Qantas will absorb the cost.

“It’s part of the business case, because ultimately we save money out of this. We’re prepared to make this investment – it’s the right thing to do, and in the long term it will reduce our costs,” he said.

He said as they further integrated the products into the supply chains the costs would come down.

Single use vegimite and milk containers may soon be a thing of the past

Volume critical to compostable success story

BioPak, an Australian-New Zealand packaging business created all the food products used on the Qantas flight, right down to the clear cellulose cups.

Gary Smith, BioPak CEO, told Business Insider Australia that although their products were about 10 per cent more expensive than the equivalent single-use plastic version they would take only a matter of weeks to degrade.

“Our products are all certified to compost within 180 days, general compost takes 8 weeks to process,” he said.

“The price has already come down substantially, the gap between plastic and our product is already closing, but we need more people to contribute to eradicating plastics.”

He said compostable food packaging products were necessary if we’re to do anything about the recycling waste crisis.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.