April 26, 2019

The first single-use plastic free flight in Australia just touched down on Earth Day

Words by Travel to change the world

Etihad Airways is the first airline in the region to operate a single-use plastic free flight.

In a bid to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution, single-use plastic free flight EY484 took off from Abu Dhabi and landed at Brisbane Airport on Earth Day, 22 April 2019.

The milestone flight was part of Etihad’s ongoing commitment to the environment, to go beyond Earth Day celebrations, and pledge to reduce single-use plastic usage by 80 per cent not just in-flight, but across the entire organisation by the end of 2022.

Pic: WWF Australia

What’s the challenge?

No other human activity pushes individual emission levels as fast and as high as air travel. Alongside that stark fact, airlines have been copping flak for years for their seemingly needless over-use of single-use plastics and non-existent recycling practices.

How many times have you cursed under your breath while you’re desperately trying to find the tiniest piece of tray real estate after having torn all the plastic wrapping off every single item on it?

And then thought, what happens to all that plastic anyway?

Blankets made from recycled plastic
Blankets made from recycled plastic

What’s the solution?

Etihad Airways recently revealed that it uses some 27 million single-use plastic coffee cup lids every year.

That admission was a kicker to take action and on 22 April, it became the first major airline to make a long haul flight with no single-use plastics on board.

To make this new initiative happen, Etihad identified over 95 single-use plastic products that are used across its aircraft cabins.

Once removed from the Earth Day flight, Etihad says they prevented over 50 kilograms of plastics from ending up in a landfill.

Guests on board the flight enjoyed replacement products including sustainable amenity kits, award-winning eco-thread blankets made out of recycled plastic bottles, tablet toothpaste and edible coffee cups while children were handed out eco-plush toys.

There is a growing concern globally about the overuse of plastics, which can take thousands of years to decompose,” says Tony Douglas, the group’s chief executive, explained.

“We discovered we could remove 27 million single-use plastic lids from our in-flight service a year and, as a leading airline, it’s our responsibility to act on this, to challenge industry standards and work with suppliers who provide lower-impact alternatives.”

Tony Douglas, Etihad Chief Executive

What will the positive impact be?

As a result of planning the Earth Day flight, Etihad has additionally committed to removing up to 20 per cent of the single-use plastic items on board by 1 June 2019.

By the end of this year, Etihad will have removed 100 tonnes of single-use plastics from its inflight service.

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How can you travel to change the world?

Congratulations! By reading this post and taking some of these insights on board, you’ve already made a difference.

Now you can easily create your impact by sharing your new-found knowledge with other friends who you think would also be interested.

Ultimately, responsible travel comes down to common sense – stay curious, keep yourself up-to-date with the challenges at hand and make yourself accountable for your actions on your travels.