Etihad Airways Cuts Single Use Plastics From Economy Meals

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is set to update its economy class offerings later this year, setting the focus on sustainability and environmentalism. Single-use plastics used as part of the airline’s in-flight catering service will be replaced with fully reusable dining equipment, reducing waste and creating a closed recycling loop.

ECO-nomic features

The latest announcement puts Etihad on track to meet its target of removing 80% of single-use plastics from operations by the end of 2022. In 2019, the carrier performed its first single-use plastic-free flight to Brisbane to commemorate Earth Day, paving the way for the development of its latest product on a wide scale.

The new “dining experience” features reusable cutlery made from recycled plastic, though plans are in place to phase in stainless steel cutlery. Plates and trays will become part of a “closed-loop recycling system,” eventually washed, ground, and recycled into replacement products at the end of their usage lifecycle.

The new Economy dining experience is set to slash single-use plastics, with all products eventually ground down and recycled into other items upon the end of their lifecycle. Photo: Etihad

To support businesses within the United Arab Emirates, Etihad is also moving to swap soft furnishings in economy seating out for locally sourced products and materials and upgrading its complimentary blankets to be made from recycled plastics.

Etihad Executive Director of Guest Experience, Brand and Marketing, Terry Daly, noted,

“Etihad is trailblazing when it comes to sustainability in aviation. Following extensive research and development through our eco-flights over the past few years, we’re proud to reveal the first in a series of enhancements to our inflight experience. Our commitment to sustainability doesn’t come at a compromise to the quality and thoughtfulness behind Etihad’s guest experience, and these innovative new products will further improve our offering. We look forward to rolling out this new experience across the fleet towards the latter part of the year. ”

Sustainability initiatives

Etihad’s economy upgrades come following the release of its first sustainability report in April, covering its ongoing eco-initiatives and the impact they have had on operations.

Etihad worked closely with Boeing to develop its “Greenliner” program which focuses on reducing carbon emissions. Photo: Etihad Airways

Since 2018, the carrier has seen a continual decline in its CO2 emissions, dropping from 9.8 million tones in 2018 to just 4.2 million in 2020; however – given the decline in air traffic that year, 2019’s 9.1 million figure is likely more representative – and still very impressive given the addition of several new widebody aircraft in that timeframe.

In other recent environment news, Etihad has also successfully performed an intensive sustainable flight-testing program, conducting 42 flights over a five-day period, with 22 being contrail prevention flights.

During the five days of testing, Etihad covered contrail prevention by avoiding certain flight conditions to reduce non-carbon emissions, flight path optimization, and scaled back engine and flap usage on landing and taxiing, with results set to be formulated and analyzed over the coming weeks.

It is not the first round of flight testing for Etihad either; between 2019 and 2021, the carrier operated five eco-flights as part of its collaborative “Greenliner” project with Boeing, trailing a range of new operational efficiencies and sustainability initiatives across its network.

What do you think of Etihad’s latest sustainability initiative? What other ways would you like to see airlines decrease their reliance on single-use plastics? Let us know in the comments.


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