British Airways aims to remove more than 700 tonnes of single-use plastic on board its flights in 2020.
It comes as Network Rail says it's saved the equivalent of three million plastic bottles from landfill by introducing free drinking water fountains at some of the UK's biggest and busiest stations. The airline says the change will save the equivalent of 30,000 suitcases full of single-use plastic - more than the number of bags customers check in with the airline at Heathrow on an average day. British Airways has already removed 25 million individual items of single-use plastic on board each year, equivalent to 90 tonnes, and has now set itself a target to increase levels by more than 700%. So far it has swapped plastic stirrers with bamboo alternatives, reduced plastic packaging on Club World amenity kits and swapped plastic wrapping for all bedding and blankets for paper wrapping. Water bottles on board are now made from 50% recycled plastic and the airline has removed in-flight retail plastic bags.
"Research required to ensure the alternative products sourced are credibly sustainable, offer the same hygiene levels as their plastic counterparts and do not outweigh the items they replace."
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, with a significant amount of research required to ensure that the alternative products sourced are credibly sustainable, offer the same hygiene levels as their plastic counterparts and do not outweigh the items they replace'. Kate Tanner, British Airways’ Customer Experience Manager said: "Our customers have told us that they want to see these changes and we’re pleased to have made real strides in our journey to becoming more sustainable. "We’ve spent a long time researching how to make sustainable changes without causing environmental impact elsewhere. For instance, we are looking at the amount of water and detergent needed to wash metal cutlery and how often it needs to be replaced versus using plastic or bamboo cutlery. "We’ve looked at how we ensure blankets and other items can be kept clean without a plastic covering and the lifespan of all the new items compared to the existing ones. "Some potential replacement options may be heavier, which would then have an impact on the weight of the aircraft and therefore on our emissions, so we must ensure we are making the right choices on all replacements."
Since launching in 2018, the water fountain initiative by Network Rail has proven increasingly popular with passengers. During last year’s National Refill Day - an initiative led by City to Sea - Network Rail celebrated saving the equivalent of one million plastic bottles and set a target of reaching two million by the end of 2020.
Passengers have already surpassed that goal by one million by making the switch to reusable bottles This success coincides with the final major station, Leeds, installing its water fountain last month as part of wider refurbishment works. Free water fountains can now be found at all 20 of Network Rail’s managed stations, including Waterloo, Birmingham New Street and King’s Cross. With water fountains springing up across the UK, passengers are encouraged to download City to Sea’s Refill App. The app connects people to almost 30,000 Refill Stations nationwide, to help them reduce their use of single-use plastic on the move. Steve Hynd, Campaigns Manager at City to Sea, said: "It's fantastic to have the support of Network Rail, and through our partnership with them we are empowering passengers to avoid single-use plastic. "We know that when people are on the go, this is the time they’re most likely to buy a plastic bottle of water. "Research shows 36% of people who regularly carry a reusable water bottle say they would buy a plastic bottle at a train station. We are here to offer them an easy, cheap and good for the environment alternative. Now that’s something to raise a glass to." David Biggs, Managing Director Property, Network Rail, added: "Network Rail has a big role to play in tackling plastic pollution. We know that passengers share our passion for reducing single use plastics, so it’s important that we make it as easy as possible for them to refill throughout their journey. "It's great that we now have free water fountains in all of our managed stations, and even more so, that they’re making a real difference for passengers." Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: "Network Rail and City to Sea’s campaign has been a massive success, ensuring passengers stay hydrated, save money and we all save the planet one water bottle at a time. "People across the country start and finish their days on our railways and encouraging water refills both avoids waste and means that, as a nation, we won’t be running on empty."