Qantas Airlines
Credit: Rusell Hendry/Getty Images

Qantas operated the first-ever commercial flight service that produced zero landfill waste on Wednesday.

From this point forward, all items onboard flight QF739 from Sydney to Adelaide, from cups to food waste, will either be composted, reused or recycled.

“In the process of carrying over 50 million people every year, Qantas and Jetstar currently produce an amount of waste equivalent to 80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets,” Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said at the flight’s departure from Sydney Airport. “We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it. This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process and getting feedback from our customers.”

Meals were served in containers made from sugar cane and the cutlery was made from crop starch, all fully compostable. Single-use plastics, like individually-packaged servings of milk or Vegemite, were either swapped out for a sustainable alternative or removed altogether. At the end of flight service, flight attendants sorted waste into compost, recycling or reuse.

Customers were encouraged to use digital boarding passes and electronic bag tags whenever possible. However, it was still possible to use paper passes or tags. Staff members were on hand to remind passengers to dispose of these items in a sustainable manner.

“We see how much waste there is physically every day, and it is kind of sickening and we are already in an industry that is not very environmentally friendly," flight attendant Maddie Rowcliff told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The only thing we could be recycling on a normal flight is cups, cans, water bottles and newspapers that go into the green bags on flight, everything else would go into a combined bag.”

The airline announced its goal to remove 100 million single-use plastics (45 million plastic cups, 30 million sets of cutlery, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers) from its flights by the end of 2020. These items will be replaced with more sustainable alternatives.

The flight will also be fully carbon offset through the airline’s carbon offset scheme.

Last year, the airline operated the world’s first biofuel flight between the United States and Australia. The 15-hour flight ran on blended fuel, 10 percent of which was made from mustard seed.