Sustainable Development

Rethinking single-use plastic

Plastic can be useful but how much do we really need?

We’re taking single-use plastic straws and stirrers out of Cathay’s services worldwide

Worldwide people are becoming more aware of the impact their actions can have on our planet. At Cathay we are also keenly aware of our impact on the environment and are always looking for ways to leave things better than we find them. With this in mind, we decided to rethink our approach to single-use plastics and take a detailed look at what we have done, and – importantly – what we can still do. Adding rethinking to our approach has taken us from the 3Rs to 4Rs: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

1. Rethink
We took a decision to Rethink our single-use plastic strategy and instead of simply asking how we could recycle these items, we asked a better question – why? Why do we need these items? The answer, in some cases, was – we don’t. If we can remove a single-use plastic item from our inventory without compromising operations or customer experience then the question is not “why?” but “why not?”. Rethinking our single-use plastic approach means looking at the needs those items serve and then seeking out innovative ways to serve those needs in other ways – either by eliminating them, or innovating a new and better product or service.

2. Reduce
Rethinking our strategy has allowed us to look holistically at every aspect of the business and where there are opportunities to take on the challenge of reducing single-use plastics. We haven’t served plastic straws onboard since the 1980s and, taking that further, one of our most important initiatives now is to eliminate plastic straws and stirrers company-wide. This policy change will save 18 million pieces of plastic a year from entering the waste cycle. We won’t stop there and have already identified other plastic items that will also go through the rethinking approach.

3. Reuse
Wherever possible, we try to reuse our plastic items. Plastic is a useful material, it is versatile and light-weight, which is especially important onboard to reduce greenhouse gases emissions from extra fuel burn. Reusing plastic items helps to balance the need for plastic against its environmental impact. To achieve this, since 2001 we have been washing, sterilising and reusing the plastic cutlery on our flights.

4. Recycle
Items that can’t be reduced or reused can often be recycled – turned into a new, useful plastic product. Cathay has adopted this approach in multiple ways. In 2017, 612 tonnes of inflight plastic was recycled and our economy class blankets are made of 100% recycled plastic water bottles!

At Cathay we recognise that we have a lot more to do but we are committed to continuously rethinking our efforts to eliminate or replace single-use plastic with environmentally friendly alternatives.