Australia’s national airline Qantas has pledged to reuse and recycle 75% of its general waste by 2021 as part of a sustainability program that embodies the “most ambitious waste reduction targets of any major airline”. The company will also remove 100 million single-use plastic products per year by 2020 by replacing millions of disposable cups, utensils and headrest covers with biodegradable alternatives.
“In the process of carrying 50 million people each year, we deal with more than 30,000 tons of waste,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a media release. “It is quite literally a waste, and we have a responsibility to our customers, shareholders, and the community to reduce it.”
Qantas and its partners QantasLink and Jetstar have already removed all plastic straws from their flights and lounges, as well as plastic wrapping on pyjamas and headsets. In addition to this, within the next year, the airline will digitalise Frequent Flyer Cards, recycle all old uniforms and eventually no longer accept paper boarding passes.
“Few industries can eradicate waste completely, but with this program, we’re saying that avoidable waste should no longer be an acceptable by-product of how we do business,” Joyce stated. “This isn’t just the right thing to do, it is good for business and will put us ahead of legislative requirements in the various countries we operate in, where there is an end-date on various single-use plastics.”
Nowadays, plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental burdens, and 50% of it is thrown away after the first use. Studies also suggest that the consumption of water and food in plastic bottles and packages is detrimental to health, as harmful chemicals form the plastic can leech into the water or food and consequently enter the human body.
One of the most harmful compounds in plastic is bisphenol A or BPA which has been proven to link to a myriad of health problems – exposure to this toxin during pregnancy has been found to lead to low birth weight, it has disastrous effects on the endocrine system through the thyroid gland, it can lead to obesity and affects behavioural and brain development in children.
As a result, San Francisco has started a revolution as it has become first city to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. The proposal, strongly supported by the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, plans to phase out plastic water bottles sales in the next 4 years, with fines for violating the ban reaching up to $1,000.
Although the American Beverage Association has labelled the ban “a misguided attempt by city supervisors to decrease waste in a city of avid recyclers’, Joshua Arce, the chairman of the Commission on the Environment, declared that this ban is “another step forward in our zero-waste goal”.
Biodegradable coffee cups are being ‘grown’ from fruit by an innovative design company, in a bid to cut down on plastic waste. The cups are made from gourds, a fruit belonging to the pumpkin family, which are grown inside 3D printed moulds to match the shape of a perfect coffee-cup. Creme, the architecture and design company behind this new project, started by testing the moulds in their studio in Brooklyn, New York, and now grow cup and flask-shaped gourds at a farm near the city. Although the cups are still in the design phase, Creme has had inquiries from companies across the globe.
“The inspiration actually came from how the Japanese grow their watermelons,” said Tania Kaufmann, Creme’s business manager. “They are grown in moulds into a square shape so they are easily transported and stackable, so we thought we might be able to grow gourds similarly using moulds in the shape of cups and flasks.”
“Creme explored this centuries-old craft, using 3D moulds to grow them into functional shapes, such as cups and flasks to create sustainable, renewable, and compostable products without waste.”
In 2011, it was estimated that 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year, and more than 99.75% of them do not get recycled. A study in 2017 found that only one in 400 coffee cups are recycled.
Ms Kaufmann added: “Ideally, the entire world will benefit from our product. Single-use plastic cups are not biodegradable and cause a massive amount of waste”.
The cups take around six weeks to grow and can hold up to 443ml of water, just short of the 473ml in a medium, or ‘grande’, sized Starbucks coffee cup.
Source: Crème/Solent News and Photo Agency
A dead whale that washed up in the Philippines earlier this March had 40kg (88lbs) of plastic bags inside its stomach. Workers at D’Bone Collector Museum discovered the Cuvier’s beaked whale east of Davao City earlier in March, writing on Facebook that the sea creature was filled with “the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale”, with 16 rice sacks in its stomach alongside “multiple shopping bags”.
Darrell Blatchley, founder and president of the museum, told the CNN: “I was not prepared for the amount of plastic”.
The use of throwaway plastic is a particular problem in some South East Asian countries, including the Philippines. In fact, a 2017 report by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment found that 60% of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans comes from five Asian nations- China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
Source: GETTY IMAGES
According to environmental campaigners, over 1.4 million young people around the world took part in school strikes for climate action. Children took to the streets last Friday in 2,233 cities and towns in 128 countries, from Australia to the UK, the US and India.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student whose solo protest last August prompted the global movement, said: “We proved that it does matter what you do and that no one is too small to make a difference.”
The strikes inspired by Thunberg drew widespread praise, with UN women saying on Twitter: “She is proof that we need to listen to the young generation for a sustainable future.”
However, education ministers in the UK and Australia condemned the strikes.
Madeline Grant, formerly of the UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs thinktank, asked: “Just how kind is it to shower praise on children who are fundamentally wrong?”
Thunberg responded on Facebook saying: “The favourite argument here in Sweden, and everywhere else, is that it doesn’t matter what we do because we are all too small to make a difference. [But] Friday was the biggest day of global climate action ever, according to 350.org,”
“People keep asking me ‘What is the solution to the climate crisis?’. They expect me to know the answer. That is beyond absurd, as there are no ‘solutions’ within our current systems.”
“We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you [adults] have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win. That must come to an end.”
Further strikes are planned for 12 April.
Source: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters