Qantas is an Australian Airlines that has flown its first zero-waste flight, amid a growing movement to ban single-use plastics. Here’s how it tackled the single-use plastic problem.
What Are Single Use Plastics?
Single-use plastics are made from fossil fuels and take many years to biodegrade. Examples of these plastics include plastic bags from shops or plastic bottles that are not compostable. As a result, these plastics really put a dent in sustainability as millions of tons of these plastics litter the ocean, affecting the marine ecosystem. Here’s how plastics are prevalent in airplane flights.
The Plastic Problem
Airplane flights are notorious for using single-use plastics as it’s easy to use when most passengers are only flying for a day or less. In fact, Andrew David, CEO of Qantas Domestic and Freight stated, “A typical cross-country flight from Sydney to Adelaide, which is a distance of 722 miles, generates about 75 pounds of waste.”
Annually, this becomes 150 tons of waste, which makes finding a solution to this problem all the more critical to achieving sustainability. Luckily, Qantas is tackling the plastic problem head-on.
The Qantas Solution
Qantas has resolved this issue by finding a sustainable alternative to these single-use plastics. In fact, all its in-flight products are either fully recyclable, compostable, or reusable. For example, some of the sustainable alternatives used included sugar cane containers and crop starch cutlery. Some products were removed altogether, including the individually packaged servings of milk and Vegemite.
Qantas has definitely set an example for other airline companies to follow. The fight to end the use of plastics is a step in the right direction for sustainability. Qantas hopes that other airline companies find their own ways to cut down on waste, seeing how flights themselves burn through a lot of fossil fuels. With Qantas striving to make flights sustainable, they are positively impacting the flight industry.
The Latest Tesla Sustainability Initiative: Patenting Sustainable Car Seat Foam
Tesla vehicles are some of the most environmentally-friendly, but the company just showed more sustainability promise with a new seat patent. Though the company launched cruelty-free seats in 2017, the patent underscores its continued commitment. Today’s cars are way ahead of their predecessors in terms of energy usage and emissions. This, however, makes it easier for companies to neglect other factors.
The Problem With Traditional Seats
Polyurethanes typically make up the base of the common car seat. Looking into replacements is only necessary, since in this case, they are neither recyclable nor breathable.
Other varieties are also used in bumpers, doors, windows, spoilers, and other parts, so getting rid of it could be a long process.
Making the foam itself, though, is a tedious, time-consuming process, which entails pouring and mixing a whole cocktail of chemicals.
Shaping the material after that produces a lot of non-recyclable leftovers that have nowhere to go but landfills.
Tesla Sustainability Push Includes Patented Sustainable Fibrous Foam
While the star of this patent is the “architecture” of the foam, it is important to remember the materials involved.
The Tesla sustainability push entails a choice of low-melt polymers that are easier to repurpose for future use.
And although the processing methods it plans to adopt may require more attention to detail, Tesla can reduce a significant amount of manufacturing waste.
Ultimately, the company aims to use this technology in other “foamy” car parts. Consequently, that will help minimize even more non-recyclable waste.
It is especially important for a company like Tesla to switch gears like this. While other companies like Ford are nearing their zero-waste goals, 40% of Tesla’s raw materials still go straight to landfills.
However, the two companies switch places when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions. With mixed information available to the general public, it can be hard to tell how sustainable companies actually are.
Australian National Airline Announces Ambitious Sustainability Plan
Australian national airline Qantas, which flew its first zero-waste flight earlier this May, has outlined its plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The national carrier, which announced the pledge in a November 11th press release, is the first Australian airline to commit to a net-zero emissions target. Though it appears that its goals are ambitious, the Australian national airline believes that they are fully achievable.
“Ambitious But Achievable” For The Australian National Airline
Qantas revealed the road towards the target will begin immediately and revolved around three key strategies.
- Immediately double the number of flights being offset.
- Cap net emissions from 2020 onwards.
- Invest $50 million over 10 years to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel industry.
Alan Joyce, CEO of the Australian national airline, said the announcement reflects Qantas’s need to continue to curb climate change.
“We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting program from today and we’re capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral,” he said.
He added: “These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious but achievable.”
Joyce told the media that the airline hoped the announcement would encourage passengers to offset their travel’s carbon usage.
“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the program will keep growing.”
Company Behind Qantas’s Offset Program Sees Demand Growth
Meanwhile, Tasman Environmental, the company specializing in carbon offset programs for business clients including Qantas, has reported strong demand growth.
Executive chairman Andrew Grant said the boost in consumer awareness of the effects of climate change propelled the demand growth.
“The demand for our services has increased dramatically as consumer awareness grows around the environmental implications of travel, products and goods and services and the desire by consumers and corporations to lighten their environmental footprint,” Grant said.
Biofuels Preferred Over Investment In Electric Plan Alternatives
The airline industry has come under pressure in Australia over recent years to curb its emissions. Data from the Clean Energy Regulator showed Qantas as one of the top greenhouse gas emitters in the country.
However, an article in an Australian environment magazine points out that the Australian national airline has decided not to invest in alternatives like electric planes. Instead, the company has chosen to back the development of biofuels for its aircraft.
Long-Term Solutions For The Australian National Airline
The airline has committed to working in partnership with government and institutions to reduce carbon emissions. “Qantas will work with industry, research institutions and governments to develop the long-term solutions to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry over the next three decades,” said the company in a statement.
With a number of clear metrics set in place, the Australian national airline will be interesting to follow.
Final Notes: If you are a part of the Qantas team, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be interested in staying in the loop about your progress and sharing it out with our readers.
E-Waste Is Becoming A Sustainability Disaster. And Investors Have Taken Notice.
As technology continues to evolve (and end up in landfill), e-waste is proving to be a sustainability disaster. In 2018 alone, humans generated approximately 2.01 billion tons of waste worldwide. To put things into perspective, 2.01 billion tons is comparable to 287,142,857 elephants or 275,342 Eiffel Towers. Certainly, that volume of waste sent into landfills is a significant concern. And along with it, potentially reusable resources are continuously wasted as a result of careless disposal.
Shockingly, e-waste is responsible for 50 million tons of the total generated waste produced each year. Not to mention, it accounts for 70% of the toxic waste lying in landfills.
To uncover more about the e-waste issue, I recently interviewed Amanda O’Toole, a fund manager at AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM). She is a part of the firm’s investment team as the Lead Portfolio Manager for Framlington Equities’s (AXA IM’s qualitative equities business) Clean Economy Strategy.
We discussed the primary challenges in e-waste as well as why financiers are looking towards waste management as an investment opportunity.
Why Is E-Waste So Hard To Recycle?
When dealing with the improper disposal of hazardous materials, there is a constant risk of land and water pollution through contamination. E-waste similarly causes these pollutive consequences.
For example, batteries leak heavy metals such as lead, barium, and lithium into the soil when placed in a landfill.
As a result, these heavy metals seep into groundwater channels, which eventually enter larger bodies of water like ponds or streams. And as technology continues to develop, the demand for new electronics continues to rise. Estimates show that the number of connected devices will reach 31 billion by 2020.
In O’Toole’s words, “without fundamental change throughout the electronic supply chain, the e-waste epidemic will get worse.”
Although many companies do already run their own programs for the recycling of e-waste, the reclamation of e-waste is a difficult and complex process.
While complex electronics can contain up to 60 elements from the periodic table, the process of recovering these devices can be complicated and costly.
The question now arises: If it is complicated and costly, what other ways can we deal with e-waste?
Future Economic Potential In E-Waste
The way that O’Toole sees it, e-waste is of particular interest from an investment perspective because of the value of the materials it contains.
When a company is able to extract these raw materials safely, they are able to create a valuable product that can generate revenue.
If the extraction process is cost-effective, it is possible to generate a financial return by reducing e-waste. And in some cases, securing a stable supply of a material may be challenging.
Striving For Clean Technology Through Investments
For the last six months, O’Toole has been working to launch a successful new strategy focused on promoting clean technologies.
In her Clean Economy Investment strategy, she talks about how the fund adopts a unique approach that invests in diverse areas of the market that enjoy structural growth.
Surprisingly, many of these areas are not dependent on macroeconomics. Instead, the product gears towards the interest of mainstream investors.
Through this strategy, O’Toole engages with clients who are not typically interested in environmental value. And with her guidance, clients begin to move towards these areas of the market.
Appealing To the Public
Recently, the rise in social awareness of environmental issues is driving change. This change is partly due to regulations such as building performance regulation and effluence discharge monitoring.
However, consumer demand for things such as meat alternatives and recyclable packaging comprises a majority of the market’s change. In return, brands accommodate this change by developing responsible sourcing policies.
To its advantage, the fund is utilizing this societal trend and implementing it in their own main areas of focus.
Currently, the fund identified four sub-themes to best represent opportunities for long term secular growth in the Clean Economy:
Framlington Equity’s intention is to invest in publicly listed equities in areas of the global economy which benefit from secular tailwinds. And In the long term, O’Toole argues that consumers will continue to demand the transportation of goods and services; the provision of energy, food, and water; and the use of materials.
The Bigger Picture
The common theme across the investments that AXA IM makes through the Clean Economy strategy is that these are companies whose goods and services make economic sense for their customers.
Adoption is not dependent on subsidies or a desire by corporates to address environmental issues.
The business case for adoption is based on the need to meet more stringent regulatory requirements. Additionally, companies can gain market share by addressing the growing demand for sustainable consumer products.
Brands would want to invest in order to mitigate potential reputation damage associated with a poor environmental footprint and build a sustainable production cost advantage.
Companies operating within the clean economy have a critical responsibility to ensure they offer the best solutions for clients while being mindful of the environment.
What’s more, is that when companies demonstrate how their goods and services outperform on relevant environmental metrics, they can gain a competitive advantage.
Financiers have noticed and made waste management a part of their investment strategy.
Final Notes: Is your company doing something to reduce its e-waste or carbon footprint? If so, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.
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