Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

British Airways BA 777X 777 9X

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.

How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards. You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Avios, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER) and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital on Tap Visa card

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (98)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • mr_jetlag says:

    currently in the US, where every hotel room has the ridiculous Keurigs with disposable cups and wrapped, single use stirrers. America and China will smother the earth in carbon and rubbish. Sadly no amount of BA initiatives will prevent this.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      And all you’ll ever see in the lobby/breakfast rooms are massive bins for general waste, where all the paper, plastic and food waste end up together.

      They’re on a mission clearly to undo…

    • Gavin T says:

      The US really frustrates me, I stayed in an Aloft recently that had disposable plates, cutlery, glasses and coffee cups for the breakfast. And in our US offices colleagues look confused if you suggest using mugs for coffee.

      But I reject any implication that this means we shouldn’t make an effort.

      • Teece says:

        Really, how is that helpful? The US’s general attitude towards climate change should be a concern to all.

      • Dawn says:

        I was on holiday there and stayed a night in a Motel. We were also horrified by the amount of plastic waste too. It’s unnecessary.

    • Callum says:

      And right now millions of Americans are going on about how bad China is and that there’s no point doing anything until they stop first. I suspect the vast majority of people using that argument don’t actually care – it’s just used as an excuse because they can’t be bothered to do anything (no insinuations of your personal motive for writing that, I obviously have no idea!).

      Why on Earth you’d expect BA initiatives to impact American waste disposal I have no idea, but it’s completely and utterly irrelevant whether it does or doesn’t. Removing 250 million pieces of plastic per year IS significant enough to make a difference, and once the world reaches a critical mass then the US will have no choice but to join in or suffer the consequences.

      • NigelthePensioner says:

        The trouble is Callum, that a critical mass cannot be achieved without China, India and the US of A taking a lead. Looking at a map of the world and taking the size of Western (not including Central) Europe, then you will never achieve your critical mass. Its laudable to try, I dont knock that, but it is futile, you and me paying “green taxes” that Chancellors dream up, on life’s essentials with the pretext that it will in any way “save the planet”. We are simply too small a land mass to make any meaningful difference on our own, and I’m afraid any difference as part of a Western European initiative. The lead needs to come from the worst offenders and it doesnt look like that will happen anytime soon if we continue to crave cheap replica goods from Amazon and ebay……..sorry all. Anyway have a great day! Not long til Dallas trip 😁.

        • Oh! Matron! says:

          Nigel’s right. Despite the ban on plastic bags, my time in India showed that they were everywhere, most saddening in the waterways of Alappuzha

          Why stuff has to be wrapped in plastic for hygiene reasons is laughable, especially when I’m then going to sit in a chair that a thousand smelly butts have previously sat in.

          It’s a choice. We can do it.

          PS: Don’t get me started on Pret where ALL of it’s cutlery is disposable: the new wooden spoons are so flat, it takes you 14 years to eat a soup

          • John says:

            Then drink the soup from the cup and don’t bother with the spoon.

          • Anuj says:

            Many places in India have banned plastic bags long before the west did. And if you’re wondering yes they do get followed. When I’ve visited my family in India and stayed for a month, every shop gives cloth bags like the type in Urban outfitters. And you have the remember it’s the per capita waste that should be compared. Blaming India or China alone when an average American causes the most emissions per person in the world is silly.

          • Lady London says:

            Can we talk about the incredibly low number of miles per gallon of American vehicles vs European ones? Especially given the size of the vehicles (like a suburban or city guy with no need for it has a massive pickup with a 7L V8 engine or whatever…) I am wondering why the American public tolerates such a poor return on utilisation of gas.

          • Anna says:

            LL – fuel prices are so low in the US compared to Europe, I don’t think mpg comes into the equation when buying a car!

          • Wind says:

            How many ‘pops’ have been discharged into each seat. Am positive someone could analyse this statistic?

          • Lady London says:

            the wooden spoons are biodegradable / compostable though.

            even if eating soup with them feels like chalk squeak on blackboard

          • Lady London says:

            A gas chromatograph might give a reading. not sure if it would work hovered over British Airways seats on a supposedly just-cleaned plane though.

        • Doug M says:

          Shifting the production of western consumables to China and then blaming China for carbon emissions. Nice.

        • Callum says:

          Thank you for perfectly illustrating my point.

  • Simon says:

    There’s a free exhibition on the issue of waste in air travel at the Design Museum on High Street Kensington, on through to Sunday 1 March.

  • memesweeper says:

    I took a Virgin upper class flight a few weeks ago and the effort they’d made to strip plastic out from amenities kits was obvious — and laudable. Well done BA in trying to make the same effort

  • riku2 says:

    I live in Finland and surrounded by trees which eventually get turned into paper destined for countries like the UK but I worked in the USA a lot last year and it’s heart-breaking to see how much waste they produce. At restaurants inside offices the lunch is put into a box which is thrown away 30 minutes later. The knives and forks are plastic and thrown away after use. The box is put in a bag which is thrown away after use. Only the tray you put your meal on is reused.
    In Finland all bottles have a deposit and a “reverse vending machine” at the supermarket takes in the bottles gives you back the deposit (I have not thrown a bottle away in 20 years). In California the bottles have a deposit but the system to give you the money back failed so it’s just a tax on the bottle – no way to claim the “deposit” back and the bottles cannot be returned to shops.

    • Barry says:

      That doesn’t only happen in office restaurants but every food court and fast food establishment in every shopping mall in every town or city in the US. Heartbreaking is the perfect word to describe it.

      It is staggering how much waste they create.

      • Bernie says:

        It’s all about ‘convenience’ – no washing up/breakages, less staff required etc. Has no-one ever noticed how much food waste there is in US diners etc?
        They don’t ‘do’ eco in (most of) the US, they simply aren’t interested in (what they would deem) such clap-trap. It’s all about making a fast buck, acquiring a big house – a wife with big …… and a big car.
        Thus the earlier “7L V8 engines” analogy was spot on. Not a care in the world.
        To be fair, for many it will simply be a matter of ignorance rather than arrogance.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      We used to have a very successful deposit on bottles in the UK when I were a kid… And, if you were lazy, there was always some enterprising souls who would do it on your behalf

      Now the excuse is: It’s too complex

      • Alex Sm says:

        Rubbish, if you pardon the pun. What is complex about it? These machines work well in Scandinavia, even at Tesco in Czechia! Why does the UK think they are less advanced, still puzzles me

      • Dawn says:

        I lived in Germany and all the bottles you bought added a deposit on it which you could get back when you took it to the shop. Everyone bought their bottles in crates and took the crate back full of empties. There are special machines which you put the crate onto which calculates what you’re owed and you get the money back. Everyone does it there.

        • RussellH says:

          I lived in Switzerland and much the same applied back then. I am also a frequent visitor to Germany and Belgium, where in the past, you took your empties to a human being who quickly sorted them out and gave you a chit for your refund.
          I find the new machines a retrograde step, because they read the bar code on the label to check if the bottle was sold there – if not the bottle gets rejected, you do not get your money back and you probably throw your bottle in the bin.
          It used to be the case that there were standard re-usable glass bottles for mineral waters, beer and wine (1 l), that any shop would accept, but these seem now to have disappeared.
          Germany now also has the somewhat odd system of a minimum €0,25 deposit on single use bottles – normally PET – while re-usable beer bottles are only €0,10.
          For visitors to the country the deposit on single use bottles can be offputting. We found lemon ice-tea (not found in our local supermarkets) selling at €0,49 + €0,25 in German Lidl. 5 miles west in the Netherlands exactly the same stuff in Lidl was €0,45 and no deposit.

          • Concerto says:

            I am one of those who finds that stupid German system a waste of time, money and energy and wish they would get rid of it. The Swiss had the good sense to stop it in 1999. Not in the slightest convinced that bottle deposits help in any way.

          • Ben says:

            Ironically, as per the economist recently, the recycling system in Germany has had some unintended consequences (like most things): the earnings from keeping the deposits from unreturned bottles seem to have discouraged producers from switching to more sustainable packaging.

      • kiran_mk2 says:

        One of the Tescos near me has reverse vending machines for plastic bottles – 10p per bottle voucher or donation to charity. All ours get bundled up and taken about once a month.

      • Keith says:

        It is coming back in Scotland –

        Should be going lice in 2021

  • Ken says:

    The biggest problem with throwing newspaper in the bin is that it will go into landfill and decompose producing methane which is 30 times worse than C02 in terms of greenhouse gas.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      Was sat on the bus last night looking at the copies of the metro, thinking the same thing

  • Nick_C says:

    “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 (newly planted trees absorb more CO2 than mature trees) and using clean electricity which is generated from hydro electric dams. Which route is better?”

    Every time the media spit out these gobbetsuuuu, they feed the climate change denyers and reinforce the beliefs of many consumers that recycling is a waste of time.

    “In favour of recycling is the fact that paper mills use toxic compounds such as toluene, methanol and formaldehyde. A report by the US Environmental Protection Agency states that paper mills are among the worst polluters of any industry in the US. Recycling causes 35 per cent less water pollution and 74 per cent less air pollution than making new paper. Recycling a tonne of newspaper also eliminates 3m³ of landfill. As paper decomposes in the ground it produces methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. On balance it seems that recycling paper is still much better than producing it from fresh pulp.”

    But replacing plastic products with paper ones can be a retrograde step also, as paper packaging is heavier and larger than plastic. There’s nothing wrong with plastic – if it is disposed of properly. Studies have shown that plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than paper bags.

    How much fossil fuel will you burn importing virgin paper from Sweden? What will those ships be carrying on the return journey?

  • Zoe says:

    When my daughter graduated a few years ago and was sure she wanted a sustainability career it looked very niche. There was only one obvious UK grad scheme. Just a couple of years later and the world has really woken up. Last year a friend went for a FInance Director job at an insurance company and his interview presentation had to be on sustainability. My daughter now has a sustainability specialist role with S&P. To be fair she always had recycling on the agenda when running family meetings as a child.

    • Lady London says:

      If it was the company I’m thinking of then the Sustainability business unit had the largest number of applications from graduates by far. Internally if anyone needed moving and was given a choice more than half of existing staff in that situation seemed to express a preference to move to the Sustainability part of the business. I only know this from about 10 years ago and am sure the wish to do something about this problem has gotten even more popular since.

  • Alex Sm says:

    Re Flybe: is this the reason why their new loyalty programme is unduly delayed?

    • Stu N says:

      Because they are somewhere close to going bust and trying to persuade government to “support” them.

      Loyalty programs cost money, at least in the short term, the optics of launching one at the moment aren’t good and management have better things to be doing.

      • Alex Sm says:

        But they keep saying they are about to launch it! And shoosh on ‘going bust’ talks – I have a flight booked with them in August!

    • Rob says:

      No! I think they want to unveil a lot of things at once. It is possible it doesn’t happen until the official rebrand.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.