Lonely Planet Writer

Qantas launches the world's first zero-waste commercial flight

What is being touted as the “world’s first-ever zero-waste flight” took off from Sydney this week, marking Qantas’ green goal to eliminate 75% of the airline’s waste by 2021.

The flight is the latest move to go green. Photo by Thomas Jackson

Departing last Wednesday on a trial run, Qantas flight F739 from Sydney to Adelaide was the first commercial flight to produce no landfill waste. No easy task when you consider the airline typically produces 34kg of waste on the two-hour Sydney to Adelaide flight, with the route producing 150 tonnes of waste annually.

About 1000 single-use plastics were replaced with alternative solutions or removed altogether from the flight, including Qantas staples like individually-packaged servings of milk and Vegemite. Eco-friendly packaging company BioPak supplied meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch. Passengers even sipped from water bottles destined for an Adelaide recycling plant. All inflight products on board were then disposed of by Qantas’ ‘Green Team’ via compost, reuse or recycling.

BioPak supplied eco-friendly food and drink packaging. Image by Qantas/BioPak

Customers used digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags where possible, with staff on hand to make sure any paper passes and tags were disposed of sustainably. The Qantas lounges at Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal also went ‘green’ for the flight, with multiple waste streams in use. The airline confirmed the flight was 100% carbon offset.

Speaking at the flight’s departure, Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the trial flight was an important milestone for the national carrier’s plan to slash waste. “In the process of carrying over 50 million people every year, Qantas and Jetstar currently produce an amount of waste equivalent to 80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets,” Mr David said.

The trail flight is part of Qantas’ plans to eliminate landfill waste by 2021. Image by Qantas

With its environmental targets to remove 100 million single-use plastic items every year by the end of 2020, Qantas and Jetstar will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups. It also aims to replace four million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives. The carrier’s waste reduction initiative has been called The Bowerbird Project, named after the Australian bird that reuses small plastic items.