British Airways has announced a target to remove more than 700 tonnes of single-use plastic on board its flights in 2020. The airline has already rolled out initiatives to remove 25 million individual items of single-use plastic on board each year, equivalent to 90 tonnes, and has now set itself a target to increase this by more than 700%.
According to the airline’s figures, this reduction would amount to more than a quarter of a billion individual items of plastic and be equivalent to more than 30,000 suitcases full of single-use plastic, which is even more than the number of bags customers check in with the airline at Heathrow on an average day.
British Airways has been working with its suppliers to identify alternatives to single-use plastic items, and this year it will replace as many as possible with recyclable or re-usable items or items from sustainable sources. To date, the airline says it has swapped plastic stirrers with bamboo alternatives, reduced plastic packaging on Club World amenity kits, swapped plastic wrapping for all bedding and blankets for paper wrapping (currently being rolled out across all cabins), removed plastic wrapping on headsets and instead placed these inside paper charity envelopes in World Traveller cabins, introduced water bottles made from 50% recycled plastic, and removed inflight retail plastic bags.
The target also includes finding alternatives to single-use plastic cutlery, tumblers, cups, toothpicks and butter packaging on board. The airline describes the process of making these changes as complex, with a significant amount of research required to ensure that the alternative products sourced are credibly sustainable, offer the same hygiene levels as their plastic counterparts and do not outweigh the items they replace.
Kate Tanner, British Airways’ customer experience manager said, “We’ve spent a long time researching how to make sustainable changes without causing environmental impact elsewhere. For instance, we are looking at the amount of water and detergent needed to wash metal cutlery and how often it needs to be replaced versus using plastic or bamboo cutlery.
“We’ve looked at how we ensure blankets and other items can be kept clean without a plastic covering and the lifespan of all the new items compared to the existing ones. Some potential replacement options may be heavier, which would then have an impact on the weight of the aircraft and therefore on our emissions, so we must ensure we are making the right choices on all replacements.”
The airline has a team of more than 170 War on Waste cabin crew champions who promote best practice among crew and identify potential new initiatives to improve waste reduction and recycling practices on board. British Airways says it now expects its suppliers to offer sustainable alternatives as standard and will be making continual changes to its onboard products as they become available.