Industry News

Qantas Group to slash waste to landfill in major environmental push

The Qantas Group has announced an ambitious plan to become the world’s first airline to reuse, recycle and compost at least three-quarters of its general waste by the end of 2021.

Part of the national carrier’s half-year results, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that business had a responsibility to lead on environmental issues.

“In the process of carrying 50 million people each year, we deal with more than 30,000 tonnes of waste. That’s the same weight as about 80 747 jumbos,” Joyce said.

“It is quite literally a waste and we have a responsibility to our customers, shareholders and the community to reduce it.

“We’ve already removed plastic wrapping on our pyjamas and headsets, as well as plastic straws. Even plastic Frequent Flyer cards are going digital. It adds up to millions of items a year because of our scale and there’s a lot more we can do.”

Some examples of changes to be implemented across Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar from later this year include:

  • Introducing coffee cups that can be recycled or composted.
  • Effectively eliminating single-use plastics by switching to alternative packaging.
  • Removing unnecessary paper, such as boarding passes and operational manuals, by going digital.
  • Increasing donation or composting of food.
  • Recycling of old uniforms.

In targeting the removal of 100 million single-use plastic items per annum, the Group will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives by end of 2020. This list of items goes well beyond the recent EU ban, both in scope and speed of implementation.

The Group has an existing target to reduce waste to landfill by 30 per cent by 2020, which it’s on track to reach through recycling and other programs. The 75 per cent goal now takes its place. Separate targets exist for fuel, water and electricity consumption, and Qantas has the largest carbon offset scheme of any airline in the world.

Airlines are legally required to dispose of some materials permanently, such as quarantined food from international flights and hazardous materials. With support from industry and regulators, the Group believes it can ultimately reduce the volume of this regulated waste as well.

Similarly, there are some single-use plastics used by airlines (such as wrapping for hygiene purposes and some heat resistant containers for meal preparation) that don’t currently have a practical alternative. Qantas and Jetstar are working with manufacturers and other airlines to innovate in this space to further reduce waste to landfill.

“A few industries can eradicate waste completely, but with this program we’re saying that avoidable waste should no longer be an acceptable by-product of how we do business,” Joyce said.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do, it is good for business and will put us ahead of legislative requirements in the various countries we operate in, where there is an end-date on various single-use plastics.

“Some of the best feedback to our efforts so far has been from our crew, who see the sheer volume of waste generated in cabins of hundreds of people every day.

“We’ll be asking for help from our people, customers, suppliers and regulators to help us reach this goal.”