From FMCG to fashion to food, every industry today has transformed into a giant waste-generating machine gone absolutely berserk. The Airline industry is no exception to this rule. In a report published by International Air Transport Association in 2016, airlines were responsible for generating 5.2 million tons of waste—roughly the same amount of waste that the city of Mumbai generates in a span of two years. With cutlery that’s made entirely out of disposable materials and blankets that come wrapped in plastic—airlines have long contributed to this environmental downfall, especially in economy cabins and no-frills airlines. But with everything that has been going on lately, it seems like these low-cost airlines are finally willing to redeem themselves.
Maharashtra government’s recent decision to ban the use of single use plastic disposable items in the state comes as a warning signal for many. However, there is much ambiguity about whether or not the ban applies to airlines operating in the state as well. Regardless of the confusion, some airlines, like Go Air, have decided to stop using plastic cutlery on their aircrafts. Air India is considering using cups made out of bone china or paper, instead of the usual plastic ones, and Jet Airways too will be using biodegradable boxes, paper cups, and insulated boxes for hot and cold items.
Vistara has taken the leap and declared that it will reduce its plastic waste by 50 percent this year. This will be achieved by using aluminium dishes instead of plastic casseroles, and wooden or paper stirrers instead of plastic straws. It also plans on introducing disposable bowls of reusable variety in economy class. However, the main challenge is reducing the use of plastic bottles. “We are actively working with our vendors and considering every touch point including alternative ways of packaging water”, said a Vistara spokesperson in a report published by Business Standard.
Vistara is also the first and only Indian carrier that uses oxo-biodegradable cutlery. It also serves its meals in boxes that are FSC certified—an internationally recognised certification for products that are environment-friendly.
It is estimated that if waste generation by air carriers is not controlled in the near future, it could possibly go up to 10 million tonnes by 2030—an unimaginable amount. Our government is barely equipped with the resources and technology to deal with the existing waste, let alone the waste we generate in the future. The future is full of uncertainties, and the least we can do is fix the present and hope for the best.
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