Etihad Airways has become the first airline in the United Arab Emirates to operate a flight without any single-use plastics on board, in a bid to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution. The flight from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane landed on 22 April, which marked Earth Day 2019.
The milestone flight is part of Etihad’s ongoing commitment to the environment, to go beyond Earth Day celebrations, and pledge to reduce single-use plastic usage by 80% not just in-flight, but across the entire organisation by the end of 2022.
Etihad identified that over 95% of single-use plastic products are used across its aircraft cabins. Once removed from the Earth Day flight, Etihad prevented over 50 kilograms of plastics from being landfilled.
Guests on board enjoyed replacement products, provided by Etihad’s current supplier of amenity products Buzz, including sustainable amenity kits, award-winning eco-thread blankets made out of recycled plastic bottles, tablet toothpaste and edible coffee cups, while children were treated to eco-plush toys.
As a result of planning the Earth Day flight, Etihad additionally committed to remove up to 20% of the single-use plastic items on board by 1 June 2019. By the end of this year, Etihad will have removed 100 tonnes of single-use plastics from its inflight service.
H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, said: “Sustainable and efficient transport is core to the government’s vision, and we commend Etihad’s proactivity in paving the way for sustainability and efficiency in air transportation. The investment in sustainable alternative fuels and the focus on emerging environmental concerns such as plastic pollution reaffirms Etihad’s commitment to the Abu Dhabi transport vision.”
H.E. Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, Chairman Etihad Aviation Group, added: “This step is an extension of Etihad’s pioneering environmental efforts. Inaugurating 2019 with the locally sourced biofuel flight and the operation of the longest single-use plastic free flight are testament to our commitment to leading effective change towards sustainability.”
Last year, the United Nations called for global action to beat plastic pollution, stating that 400 million tonnes of plastics are produced every year, 63% of which are intended for single-use. Governments around the world, including he Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), have already launched initiatives to ban single-use plastics.
Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “There is a growing concern globally about the overuse of plastics which can take thousands of years to decompose. We discovered we could remove 27 million single-use plastic lids from our inflight service a year and, as a leading airline, it’s our responsibility to act on this, to challenge industry standards and work with suppliers who provide lower impact alternatives.”
Etihad says that in some instances, the sustainable choice was easy. The airline worked with suppliers to ensure products were not wrapped in single-use plastics. For others, more innovative products had to be sourced including the edible coffee cups Cupffees, made entirely out of natural grain products.
“We are making this promise not only for the environment but also for the wider community. Our guests and employees are largely responsible for facilitating this positive change, as they brought to our attention the effect plastics within our industry have on landfills, waterways and our oceans, contaminating our soil and water,” added Douglas.