Australian airline Qantas claims to have operated the first-ever commercial flight to produce no landfill waste, marking the start of its plan to become more sustainable.

The carrier aims to cut 100 million single-use plastic products by the end of 2020 and eliminate 75 per cent of its waste by the end of 2021.

For flight QF739 from Sydney to Adelaide on 8 May, all in-flight products were disposed of via compost, reuse or recycling. Alternatives used include meal containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch, all of which is fully compostable.

At the end of the meal service, cabin crew collected the items left over for reuse, recycling or composting in multiple waste streams.

Passengers used digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags where possible, with staff ensuring any paper passes and tags were disposed of sustainably.

In addition, the zero-waste flight will be 100 per cent carbon offset. Qantas says that by mid-2019, customers will have the chance to earn 10 Qantas Points for every dollar spent offsetting their travel from Australia.

Qantas’ lounges at Sydney airport’s domestic terminal also used multiple waste streams to complement efforts undertaken on the flight.

By the end of 2020, Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and 4 million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives. The airline’s waste reduction initiative has been called the Bowerbird Project, renamed after an Australian bird that reuses small plastic items in its nest.

Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said: “In the process of carrying more than 50 million people every year, Qantas and Jetstar currently produce an amount of waste equivalent to 80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets. We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it.

“This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers.”

The Bowerbird Project follows Qantas’ first biofuel flight between Australia and the US last year, which used fuel processed from mustard seed and saved about 18,000kg of carbon emissions.

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