Emirates Airlines is launching a “closed loop” recycling initiative, in a joint venture with deSter.
1. Reduce, re-use, recycle
Flight crews will collect used meal service items from Economy and Premium Economy Class for transfer from Dubai to a local recycling centre. New ‘tableware’ made from at least 25% recycled materials will then supply Emirates Flight Catering for thousands of meal services on flights around the world.
Recycled cutlery will also be launched this month, following the UN’s World Environment Day on 5 June.
2. Is this just greenwashing?
Like other airlines in the current climate, Emirates has made sustainability a key plank of its corporate responsibilities and is keen to promote its achievements. The airline’s corporate pages tell a story of numerous planet-conscious actions.
The roof on Emirates Dubai Engine Maintenance Centre has a one-megawatt installation of nearly 3000 solar photovoltaic panels, expected to produce over 1,800 megawatt‑hours of electricity and save around 800 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. The use of light emitting diode (LED) lights across all facilities, is saving more than 2,850 MWh of electricity a year.
For the last five years, Economy and Premium Economy Class blankets have been made from recycled plastic bottles. 28 recycled plastic bottles, chipped, spun into yarn and woven, go into each blanket.
Meanwhile inflight bags, baby items and toys, wooden beverage stirrers, and paper straws are made from recycled plastics and paper and wood from forests that are responsibly managed.
Overall, crews on Emirates flights recycled over half a million kilograms (1.1 million pounds) of plastic and glass last year, saving 150 million plastic items from landfill.
Now the new ‘closed loop’ initiative appears to bring the group a step closer to achieving its circular economy ambitions.
3. What about jet fuel?
Jet fuel is of course by far the biggest part in an airline’s carbon footprint. As part of combatting that, Emirates claims to have one of the youngest, most fuel-efficient fleets in the industry, and uses engine washing and pre-flight logistical modelling to ensure routes and operations are optimised. As the company’s statements point out, they have a vested interest in reducing fuel use: “With jet fuel comprising one of our largest areas of expenditure, fuel efficiency is essential to every part of the business.”
In January, Emirates completed the first (SAF) Sustainable Aviation Fuel flight tests in the Middle East, but perhaps unsurprisingly for the flagship carrier of a fossil-fuel-rich nation, its corporate standpoint on SAF appears in last place on the company’s sustainability overview and is notably less gushing than the other bullet points: “We are monitoring the development of biofuel technology with great interest. We look forward to the development of biofuels that are technically safe, cost competitive, and truly sustainable, with a viable supply chain in place from feedstock to the aircraft.”