It can get to be a bit mortifying when you start becoming conscious of how much single-use plastic is in use every day. Suddenly, you notice that the four people in line ahead of you at the cafe don’t have reusable coffee cups, or that t-shirt you bought online inexplicably arrived with three layers of packaging around it. This only amplifies when it comes to travel too, and it often starts as soon as you take your aeroplane seat. From the individually plastic-wrapped headphones the steward hands to you, the cups used every time you get a drink, to the plastic-wrapped cutlery with your meals, there’s no doubt air travel is highly eco-unfriendly.
As the collective consciousness drifts towards adopting more green practices, it’s encouraging to see big corporations follow suit. Such is the case for Etihad Airways, who recently operated a single use plastic-free ultra-long haul flight from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane. Although this was a one-off campaign to raise awareness for Earth Day (22 April) and the effects of plastic pollution, it still proves it’s possible to implement sustainable changes on this scale. Moreover, Etihad has committed to reducing single-use plastic usage by 80% by the end of 2022 – both in-flight and across the entire organisation.
Eco-friendly alternatives replaced more than 95 cabin items on the Abu Dhabi to Brisbane flight. These included eco-thread blankets made from recycled plastic, eco-plush toys and amenity kits and edible coffee cups. Etihad suggests over 50kg of plastics were prevented from being landfilled just from this single flight. The airline has also committed to removing up to 20% of the single-use plastics onboard by 1 June 2019, estimating that it will have removed 100 tonnes of it from its in-flight service by the end of the year.
This follows announcements from a string of other airlines around the world promising to be plastic-free or significantly reducing their usage in the coming years. The trend is encouraging and hopefully, other major airlines and travel companies follow suit.