Qantas world first with waste-free flight


By Laura Daly and Isla Stanich

Qantas has completed the world’s first-ever “zero waste” flight, setting an example for other airlines and the rest of the world.

Plastic waste is a crisis threatening the survival of ecosystems, wildlife and the health of humans around the globe.

Qantas has completed the first waste-free flight with a domestic trip from Sydney to Adelaide. Credit: Brian Yap (葉 Creative Commons

It’s become almost inescapable, which is why global organisations are joining in on the fight against waste, taking the initiative by minimising their use of plastic.

Partnering with Australian zero-waste company, BioPak, Qantas successfully substituted about 1,000 single-use plastic items with sustainable alternatives or, in the case of individual of milk and Vegemite servings, removed altogether.

All products on board the Sydney to Adelaide flight were then able to be composted, reused, or recycled.

Where possible, customers used digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags, and staff were present to ensure any paper passes and tags were disposed of sustainably.

Founder and Sustainability Director of BioPak, Richard Fine, said the plastic crisis is an issue we need to address now.

“This is something that needs urgent attention. There’s one garbage truck of plastic entering the ocean every minute,” he said.

“We’ve reached a critical point where if we don’t do something now, in the next 20 years there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

An equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic enters the ocean every minute. Credit: Water Alternatives Creative Commons

BioPak’s packaging is made from plants, using a range of renewable materials that are responsibly resourced.

These products include meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch, all of which is fully compostable.

“We take the food scraps along with the packaging, there’s no contamination, you put it into a compost environment and you return those nutrients back into the soil. It’s a real circulatory economy solution,” Richard said.

Founder and CEO of zero-waste company Biome, Tracey Bailey, is thrilled Qantas is taking the initiative to go waste-free.

“It’s phenomenal what is happening in the world right now, and that’s why we all have reason to be hopeful optimistic.”

She said the harm plastic causes to the environment starts before it’s even created.

“It’s not just about that item that you’re discarding and the impact of it, it’s about all of the resources that went into firstly digging – the petrol, finding it, then sending that off to be made into plastic, all the transportation around the world.”

If Qantas is able to go waste free, the airline will cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of next year and eliminate 75 per cent of its waste by the end of 2021.

According to Richard Fine, there’s a good chance this target will be achieved.

“We will continue working with them to realise this and make this the norm going forward and hopefully set a standard for the airline industry as a whole,” he said.

In 2012 Qantas and Jetstar operated Australia’s first biofuel trial flights, and Qantas operated the first biofuel flight last year between Australia and the United States using biofuel processed from mustard seed.