How Sustainable is The Making of Bottles to Blankets?

by Claudia Mok

Emirates has recently posted that ‘‘each economy class blanket is made from 28 recycled plastic bottles’’.  A day after, Cathay Pacific reposted something very similar: ‘‘our ceilings for Economy Class Passengers are made entirely from recycled plastic bottles[.] Over 450.000 units are used every year on our flights’’. The same applies to their blankets.

Evidently, airlines like Emirates and Cathay Pacific intend to prove their pledge to sustainability as the concern over global warming continues to rise – as outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement 2015. In the agreement, world leaders set the goal of restricting global warming to below two Celsius by 2025 through to 2030.

Sustaining Sustainability

Emirates use of recycled bottles is not new news. Since January 2017, they launched the initiative to use and save recycled bottles to create their soft, ecoTHREAD patented blankets, leading them to achieve the largest sustainable blanket programme in the airline industry; a title which they hold to this day. So far, they have saved 95 million bottles from landfill, far exceeding their projected goal of rescuing 88 million or 12.316 tonnes of bottles by 2019 – equivalent to forty-four A380 planes.

Emirates Eco BlanketsEmirates' Eco plan

[Emirates’ Eco plan] | © [Emirates]

The same goes for Cathay Pacific, who reposted their pledge to sustainability, originally in Deutsch. They too have introduced blankets made from recycled bottles and use biodegradable plastic for certain packaging.

Bottles…from Where?

Yet why are there so many bottles to recycle and reuse? Bottled water is preferred over tap water for it is deemed safer for people in the Middle East. According to a report by The National UAE: the United Arab of Emirates is the highest consumer of bottled water, that is a whopping 450 litres per person, contributing to landfill. Hong Kong fares no better, according to Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department, more than 20% of their landfill comprises plastic waste, which is the equivalent of 90 double-decker buses.

Cathay Pacific's Eco BlanketsCathay Pacific's Eco Plan

[Cathay Pacific’s Sustainability plan] | © [Cathay Pacific]

The problem of plastic waste is that it risks endangering humans and animals, for instance, through transporting chemical pollutants across channels or when consumed by aquatic life.

A Global Warning

There is a growing major concern over global warming; in a report by Sustainable Travel they say that: ‘‘increasing temperatures are impacting ecosystems and communities around the world’’ – in turn affecting travel destinations such as beaches, coral reefs, and alpine resorts.

Some airlines have attempted to crack down on the issue of global warming, for example Eithad’s recent collaboration with Boeing, leading to the creation of the ‘Etihad Greenliner,’ and Lufthansa’s research into using sustainable fuel.

But with the Paris Agreement yet to be achieved, it may be time for airlines to consider acting against the root causes of climate change – for instance reducing the use of plastic bottles altogether.

What do you think about the approach to sustainability so far? Let us know in the comments below. 

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