The new era of single-use plastic-free flights

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At the end of last year, the Portuguese airline Hi Fly jetted into the history books for flying from Lisbon to Natal in Brazil without a single-use plastic item on board.

Approximately 1500kg of plastic was saved during the test period, which involved 16 flights between Portugal and Brazil carrying more than 4300 passengers. The company’s commitment to freeing the planet of plastic began with this testing, but Hi Fly aims to make its entire fleet ‘plastics-free’ by the end of 2019.

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The Portuguese carrier used bamboo cutlery instead of plastic and cups, salt and pepper shakers, plates, bottles and toothbrushes were replaced by compostable alternatives made from recycled material during the test flights last December.

The first single-use plastic-free flight was on an Airbus A340, followed by three other 100% ‘plastics free’ flights and 12 flights between Lisbon, Porto, Refice, Fortaleza, Salvador and Maceió with reduced use of plastic.

Hi Fly President Paulo Mirpuri said to the media: “We’re delighted with the feedback about the test flights. Seeing the passengers’ reaction with lots of happy faces and smiles, they’re even proud to be involved, just confirms that it’s the right thing for us to be doing.”

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“Our goal of being plastic-free by the end of the year seemed ambitious for many in our industry but believing in our project and working hard to make it a reality, we can see that it is fully achievable, and our goal now is to commit to our deadline”.

Environmentally friendly alternatives products made from renewable, low-carbon, recycled materials were used instead of plastic, which could be composted along with the food residues. Cardboard, paper, porcelain, glass, bamboo and stainless steel were also used instead of plastic.

The cutlery used on board was disinfected after each flight by LSKY, the company’s catering firm, and could then be reused again. Glass bottles were returned to the drinks suppliers to be cleaned and refilled, and paper and cardboard products were collected and sent to be recycled. During the test period, 1500kg of single-use plastic was prevented from poisoning the environment.

Packing and food waste is collected after each flight and sent to an authorised waste management operator to be processed for energy production.

One of the passengers who flew to Brazil said: “This is a noble initiative and I think people would support it. I’m happy to do my part. Plastic contamination must be addressed. My daughter will be delighted to know that I was on the world’s first flight to take off without plastic.”

Another couple who also travelled on the flight said: “This is an important initiative for us and for the environment, I think it’s great that a Portuguese company is taking the first step. Everything was very calm, the crew were excellent, and we’re happy to be part of building a better future.”

Great results have been achieved during the months implementing the strategy to mitigate the use of disposable plastic.

4 flights completely free of single-use disposable plastic

700 passengers involved in the strategy

350kg of plastic not consumed on each flight

500g of plastic not consumed per passenger

12 flights with a significant reduction of plastic

3700 passengers participated in this experience

1150kg of plastic not consumed in total

Destinations: Lisbon, Oporto, Fortaleza, Recife, Maceió and Salvador

This is definitely a great alternative, so let’s hope other major airlines follow Hi Fly’s great example and replicate the alternatives in their operation

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