British Airways to remove most single-use plastics from its aircraft during 2020

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British Airways made a major announcement yesterday on the removal of single use plastics from its aircraft.

The airline has committed to trying to remove 700 tonnes annually of single-use plastics from its aircraft by the end of 2020.

To put this into context, we are talking about more than 250,000,000 individual items of plastic.

The airline has already removed 25 million items of single use plastics from its fleet, but this new commitment is a substantial step up.

Here are some of the changes that are coming or already in place:

  • 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
  • Water bottles on board are made from 50% recycled plastic
  • 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 described the process of making these changes as complex, as the alternatives must be credibly sustainable, offer the same hygiene levels as their plastic counterparts and do not outweigh the items they replace.

Here is a suitcase made from recycled plastics that BA commissioned to mark the announcement!:

Sustainability is, of course, increasingly important.

On Tuesday I spoke at a conference of senior Virgin Atlantic managers, and one of the areas I touched on was sustainable amenity kits.  Is it about time, for example, that passengers were given empty amenity kit bags and allowed to take only the items they actually want from a trolley that passes through the plane?

It also came up last October when I spoke at a Flybe staff event.  I was on stage discussing loyalty with Flybe’s loyalty head, and one of the questions from the floor was about whether the planned scheme should be abandoned because it can, indirectly, lead to additional flying.  The genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

Sustainability isn’t easy, however, and airline passengers are unlikely to fully understand what is involved.  This is especially true with rules over waste and customs, which determine whether – for example – bottles of wine must be poured down the sink before landing or whether waste can be unloaded locally.

Even the logic of sustainability can be confusing.  You might think, for example, that recycling paper is good.  However, paper recycling is very energy intensive and, in the UK, much of our electricity is from gas fired power stations.  If you throw your newspaper in the bin, the new paper which needs to be produced is made in Scandinavia, using trees from sustainable forests and using clean electricity which is generated from hydro electric dams.  Which route is better?  (See the comments below for discussion on the methane caused by decomposing paper, however.)

British Airways is doing what it can, of course, and the airline is also in the middle of extensive fleet changes which will dramatically improve the average fuel burn of its aircraft.  These new initiatives are an important part of that process.

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  1. Where do you get the idea that new paper is needed for newspapers and has to come from Scandinavia?
    Our UK produced newsprint is 100% recycled and from UK materials.
    Spending 30 minutes online has a higher carbon footprint than a newspaper.

    • Encouraging an industrial process to recycle paper is hardly a better option than encouraging the growth of managed forests to produce paper

  2. Stayed in the holiday inn express in Carson city last summer, everything for breakfast was disposable (plates, bowels, cups etc) me and my partner was shocked. Poor show on the part of IHG to allow chains to do this.

    • That is the norm in my experience in USA chain props like Hampton, HI etc. Even when they have recycle and regular bins everything is dumped in either bin.

    • bowels?

    • The number of cups etc per person is also probably much higher in America than most other places, given the proportion of the population who are fatties

  3. Used Avanti West Coast first class the other weekend, everything was served in single use packaging. Created so much unnecessary waste.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      but if all the waste was collected and correctly recycled then whats the issue?

      The issue with airline waste is that very little of it is actually recycled and most disposed of by incineration

      There has to be balance – argue with me that my plastic straw is bad for the environment but I know using 2 crap paper straws for each drink is far worse than using my single plastic straw for 5-6 drinks and it being correctly disposed of.

      • It’s about time people woke up and realised they live in a society and everything isn’t all about them…

        You reuse your plastic straw 6 times (though why any healthy adult needs a straw in the first place is beyond me!)? So what? The vast majority are used once then not recycled.

        I’m sick of seeing the same argument with bags as well. “But I reused my single use bag as a bin liner”. Congratulations, have a medal. The vast majority are not reused.

        • “I’m sick of seeing the same argument with bags as well. “But I reused my single use bag as a bin liner”. Congratulations, have a medal. The vast majority are not reused.”

          Any evidence to support that claim? I used to use “Single Use Carrier Bags” several times for shopping, before using them as bin bags. From my experience of working at a Waste Transfer Station, I know that a lot of people used SUCBs to dispose of their residual waste. A lot were also left in the special recycling bins at supermarkets.

          Many people who no longer use SUCBs now buy bin bags.

          And bags for life don’t last anywhere near a lifetime.

          • After the van, bin bag sales increased by 11 million and single use bag use dropped by 284 million. Do the maths!

            Though if people actually cared about the environment instead of just pretending, there wouldnt need to be any plastic bin bags used. It’s not that difficult to reduce your non-recyclable waste to very little, which you can collect in a non plastic bag.

          • I should clarify that applied to Wales, and I misspoke about bin liners – that was for small carrier bag sized bags. There was no increase in bin liner sales.

            Because you should never believe what a random person claims, look for the Wrap analysis on it.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Depends what you are drinking most ice based cocktails are extremely difficult to drink without one for example.

          Point is plastics in themselves are not bad and replacing it all with paper isn’t the answer. Educate the users to dispose of things responsibly and not treat life as everything is throw away

          • You are sorely mistaken if you think plastic is recycled effectively… Only 9% of the plastic ever produced has been recycled and that shows no signs of changing. Even if you put your plastic in a recycling bin in the UK there’s a huge chance it will just be dumped in landfill or incinerated. There is virtually no market for recycled plastic. Not to mention, plastic straws are not recyclable and plastic bags are hard to recycle.

            No-one ever says that plastic is inherently bad so I have no idea why you’ve chosen to rebut that point. Nor is the only alternative to plastic paper.

          • NickC – Granted plastic bottles are more recyclable, but that link doesn’t indicate to me there’s a decent market – quite the opposite in fact.

            The fact recovered plastic is selling for much less than new plastic yet vast quantities of plastic are still being either landfilled or dumped in developing countries strongly suggests that either manufacturers don’t want it or the recycling costs don’t produce enough profit margin. It also highlights that we are recycling less than the year before – why, if there’s a market?

        • Lady London says:

          I guess we’re all different @Callum.

          With some drinks using a straw can be like kissing someone compared to straight out of the glass being more like mouth to mouth resuscitation. Variations of course depending on whether your straw is plastic (most resilient and therefore can last longer), paper which sometimes folds too soon, or titanium which resists completely so is not so pleasurable.

          FWIW I have the Snow Peak titanium straw for quite a few years now. It’s practical for avoiding contact whilst drinking from a can that a dog may have licked but that’s about it.

  4. O/T

    Did anyone get their clubcard bonus from the Pet Insurance promotion?


  5. Carson City says:

    I read a report about sustainability recently (I work in consumer packaged goods industry). When you consider the entire ecological footprint of a paper bag, it would have to be used 40 odd times to reduce its footprint to the equivalent of a plastic bag. Plastic is an incredibly hygienic, cheap, and lightweight material. If it is disposed of properly, I don’t think there’s a superior material for many applications. People need to apply their cognitive power to this issue and appreciate that blanket bans/ideas are almost always stupid.

    • Spot on.

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        You mean we’re not going to save the world by getting rid of plastic straws ??

    • RussellH says:

      ” Plastic is an incredibly hygienic, cheap, and lightweight material. If it is disposed of properly, I don’t think there’s a superior material for many applications.”

      Plastics are certainly both hygenic and lightweight materials. They are very strong for their weight and they are pretty indestructible. When properly chosen they do not corrode or degrade. All of which makes them ideal materials for many purposes. But their indestructibility is their weak point too. When they are disposed of they do not decay, though they may break up into ever smaller pieces.

      They are cheap because the lifetime cost is not considered – no price is put upon the costs of disposal / recycling / use for something else. If the price of all plastics, and other materials as well for that matter, included the cost of their disposal, then the use of flimsy, single use plastics would soon become too high compared with plastics products designed to be used again and again.

    • This has been HUGELY publicised for what, a decade now? How on Earth do people STILL not get it?

      Switching to paper bags has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with emissions (which is where the alleged bigger ecological impact comes in – though it’s a dishonest claim to make given it’s incredibly subjective). Plastic pollution kills millions of animals and is infecting every environment on the planet. It’s most likely in the water you’re drinking right now, being absorbed into your body as we speak.

      I’m sick to death of otherwise smart people completely ignoring what every expert has to say on the matter and instead deciding to not only base their entire philosophy on some ill-thought out “junk science”, but promote it and encourage others to do the same. Ignorance is the biggest problem humanity faces as a species nowadays.

      • Disposing of plastic waste in waterways is stupid. But plastics can be disposed of cleanly by incineration with energy recovery.

        And single use plastics reduce food waste.

      • What really annoys me is how groups manipulate weak minded people like yourself into promulgating falsehoods or irrelevant content.

        The local Greens keep lying about our council’s waste “going to landfill”. It doesn’t. It gets incinerated. Then you see the Green Vegan evangelist cohort wearing synthetic fibre (that enter the water system when washed) rather than good natural wool, cotton and fur.

        Euthanasia is key to managing emissions. A relative sadly had a brain injury. Nutrients are pumped into his stomach, and they are cathed and delivered into a nappy at the other end. No speech, eyes open once every few months.
        Round the clock care for 10 years. More plastic aprons and gloves than you can count. The carbon cost of keeping people alive unnecessarily is far greater than the cost of travel.

        My living will withdraws the consent to have antibiotics administered 6 months after I’m incapable of specifically consenting. Only pain killers thereafter. Pneumonia will be my and the planet’s friend.

  6. RussellH says:

    OT: Adverts on this site.

    Two days ago I needed to buy a small network bridge. I checked all the shops that a search provided, not wanting to use Amazon if at all possible. One of firms suggested was Farnell – whose site said that the one I was looking for was no longer available, although they still quoted a price. Since then my version of HfP is flooded with adverts for this particular switch from the one firm that says it cannot supply it, but offers a price well in excess of what everyone else wanted! I have my adblocker turned off for HfP – but maybe for not much longer!

    • Charlieface says:

      Clear cookies for Google or whoever else HfP uses

      • RussellH says:

        There is supposed to be a google blocker – but yes, it does not seem to be working properly!

        • RussellH says:

          And clearing all the google cookies does not work either.

          • Lady London says:

            PS CCleaner is still good for hoovering up stuff after you’ve done your cookies.

        • Lady London says:

          I suspect @RussellH that the rest of your efforts at blocking things are so successful, when an ad finally does get through to you on HfP then everybody else that buys advertising space in the Google world has only that same ad to run and re-run on your screen!

          That’s what happens to me anyway. If I click on any ad, anytime (and I don’t see many as i use Adblockplus which is excellent and DuckDuckGo browser as recommended by other posters here if i get really fed up) so i don’t see many ads at all.

          If I get really fed up with seeing a particular ad that has “trapped” me like this and is following me around across sites, usually on Google if you hover over the ad in the top right hand corner you can click x to close it. sometimes it asks you why. But that particular ad won’t reappear.

    • That’s not really HfP’s fault. There is a vast industry of ad bidding, brokerage and individual user tracking to increase the value of the ad network selling the space. HfP and other sites just include a bit of code that displays a selection of ads from their chosen network.

      You’ll find the same ads follow you around anywhere you go that you allow them.

      You should be blocking fingerprinting, cookies, browser data storage and ad network scripts everywhere else; especially on Google or Amazon product searches. Then they will have more trouble tracking your searches and the ads that will be shownvia the networks, where you allow them, will be less targeted.

      uBlock Origin and Decentraleyes for scripts, Firefox multi account containers to segragate your different visits to different areas of the web, use Firefox’s various settings to automatically resist fingerprinting, block third party cookies, empty your browsing data regularly and you will enjoy utterly random adverts here.

      I’ve seen anti pain socks, some off-brand telecoms company selling cheap sims and a smiling twat in an ice-cream whip haircut offering some coy financial service.

      • Russ 😷 says:

        I get the Virgin all gay cruises. Nothing quite like passing your lap top over to a client showing three oiled men in tight trunks having a fun time!

        • Lady London says:

          I get ladies from Russia and late night “chat” services sometimes. I am completely not the customer for those. No idea in the world how I get them… except they cannot possibly be targeted.

          Google’s Ad Blocker is not an ad blocker. If you block ads with Google all it does is randomize (i.e. non-target) what you are actually shown. According to the small print, at least. So you always need to do the things suggested by the poster above until your blocking reaches an efficiency you are happy with..

  7. 2 environmental issues need separating:
    1. Plastic pollution
    2. Emissions pollution (be it CO2 or fine particulates)

    Plastic use and mandatory incineration where it is not recycled may be the best way to deal with plastic. Even if it’s not the best in the long run it might be the only achievable solution in the short term.

    If we burned all of our plastics then what % of emissions would be attributable to that burning? If it’s inconsiderable you can knock out problem 1 quickly then focus all energy on problem 2.

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