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British Airways commits to removing 700 tonnes of single-use plastic from flights in 2020

The airline already rolled out plans to rid 25 million individual single-use plastic items from flights, and has now increased that target to more than a quarter of a billion individual pieces.

British Airways commits to removing 700 tonnes of single-use plastic from flights in 2020

Many of us are aware of the environmental impact that flying has, but it's not only about the carbon emissions: it's also about the waste produced by airlines and passengers on board, with many of this being single-use plastic. And with an estimated 100,000 flights operated around the world in just a day, the amount of plastic produced truly adds up.

Aiming to reduce its impact, British Airways has announced an ambitious plan to remove more than 700 tonnes of single-use plastic from its flights in 2020. That's equivalent to 30,000 suitcases full of pesky plastic, which is more than the number of bags that customers check in with the airline at Heathrow on an average day – it certainly puts the issue into perspective!

The UK's national airline had already rolled out plans to rid 25 million individual single-use plastic items from its flights, and this recent announcement further increases that target to more than a quarter of a billion individual pieces.

To reach its target, BA is working on finding plastic-free solutions, sourcing recyclable and reusable alternatives from suppliers, as well as items from sustainable sources. Pieces such as coffee stirrers, amenity kits, and the wrapping found on bedding, blankets and headphones, are all being swapped out with more environmentally friendly paper- or bamboo-based alternatives, whilst single-use cutlery, cups, toothpicks and even butter packaging are also being reconsidered.

Whilst it may be easy for individuals to make simple changes at home, swapping out single-use plastic for more sustainable solutions on an airline is much more complex! BA is doing lots of research to ensure the alternatives are not only practical solutions, but also come from sources that are truly sustainable, and meet strict hygiene standards. Despite the mammoth task, it's likely to be a very welcome step from the airlines' passengers.

“Our customers have told us that they want to see these changes, and we’re pleased to have made real strides in our journey to becoming more sustainable," 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 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.”

It's hoped that the demand from the airline will also spur its suppliers on to offer sustainable alternatives as standard in the future, which could in turn help more airlines implement changes on board, too.

Putting a creative spin on plastic pollution, British Airways commissioned eco-artist Sarah Turner to create a giant suitcase made from a thousand pieces of waste plastic, including 160 spoons, more than a dozen plastic stirrers, drinks lids, plastic wrap, bubble wrap, catering dishes and covers and bottles. The sculpture, which represents the 30,000 suitcases worth of plastic waste being removed as part of BA's new goal, is currently on display at the airline's Headquarters near Heathrow.

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