BA plans to remove 250 million plastic items from flights

The British Airways Initiative is part of the airline’s commitment to flying more sustainably.

British Airways suitcase artwork
BA suitcase artwork by eco-artist Sarah Turner made from 1000 pieces of waste plastic

British Airways plans to remove 700 tonnes of single-use plastic onboard its flights. The move will see 250 million individual items being removed.

This follows already rolled out initiatives where 25 million individual items of single-use plastic on board each year, equivalent to 90 tonnes have already disappeared. The target is to increase this figure by 700%. 

Many items have already been replaced with recyclable or re-usable items or items from sustainable sources. For instance, plastic wrapping for headsets, bedding and blankets are replaced by paper wrapping. Even plastic stirrers have been ditched in favour of bamboo stirrers.

Next on the list is to find alternatives to single-use plastic cutlery, tumblers, cups, toothpicks and butter packaging on board. 

British Airways has admitted that the challenge to change is complex and requires plenty of research to find sustainable materials that offer the same hygiene levels as their plastic counterparts and do not outweigh the items they replace. 

Customer experience manager Kate Tanner 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.

BA is confident that suppliers can offer sustainable alternatives as standard and will be making continual changes to its onboard products as they become available.  

British Airways began offsetting the carbon emissions from its domestic flights at the start of the year.

It has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and is investing in the development of sustainable jet fuel as well as upgrading its fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft.

To mark the new target BA commissioned eco-artist Sarah Turner to create a giant suitcase made from a thousand pieces of waste plastic, including 160 spoons, more than a dozen plastic stirrers, drinks lids, plastic wrap, bubble wrap, catering dishes and covers and bottles. The sculpture, which represents the 30,000 suitcases worth of plastic waste being removed, is currently on display at BA’s headquarters near Heathrow.