THE INSIDE TRACK • August 2023

Meet the crew working hard to reduce waste on board

Ever wondered how food waste and recycling are dealt with on our planes? These champions are helping to make a difference, one green bag at a time

Time to meet the War on Waste Champions you never knew existed. These crew members are the eyes and ears of our operation – they’re responsible for your comfort and safety on board and they are deeply passionate about recycling and reducing waste.

Our War on Waste Champions started out in 2018 as a small team of cabin crew. Today, the fully-fledged initiative has more than 160 Champions. The team ensures that everyone follows best practice to separate waste and recycling, and they also prevent unnecessary wastage on board. 

They educate both their fellow crew members and customers about British Airways’ goals and initiatives and use their experience of being in the sky to highlight any issues or trends with regards to recycling and waste, so our Customer Sustainability team can work to rectify them.

We sat down with Inflight Manager Ananda Manaka, Inflight Lead Andrea Bruno and Cabin Crew member George Mariou to tell us more about the initiative.

Where does your passion for this come from?
A Champion since 2018, Andrea starts us off. “My mum planted the seed. She always used to buy much more food than she ever needed,” she says. “I always saw the opportunity to recycle and reduce waste from her.”

“I’m a little squirrel on board,” enthuses George, who became a Champion this January. “I try to find anything that can be reused, for example cutlery packs that are still in their sealed packaging or Club Europe menu cards. Our motto is reuse and recycle and I think everyone’s got a part to play. My first waste reduction initiative was when I was working in Club Europe years ago and I noticed the bowls were made from plastic. I was part of the discussion to change them into reusable crockery.”  

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Can you describe any big improvements we’ve made as an airline in recent years?
“We’ve seen some improvements in reducing single-use plastics on board but we know we have more work to do,” says Ananda. “We’ve gone from plastic cocktail stirrers to bamboo, we’ve replaced the plastic wrapping from World Traveller Plus and Club World blankets with FSC certified paper bands, which removes 49 tonnes of single-use plastic a year, and we’ve removed the plastic document wallets for liquor paperwork.” 

Replacing plastic cutlery with birchwood in our World Traveller cabins has saved 120 tonnes of single-use plastics a year. “I hear crew talking about not opening any unnecessary packaging, such as paper cups, and it makes me smile because I know that’s come from us Champions spreading the message,” adds Ananda.

“I just get this warm fuzzy feeling when I know I’ve saved items. I also play this jam jar game with colleagues to see who can collect the most unopened jars so that they can be reused.”

What is the next thing you’d like to see British Airways tackle?
“Ultimately, I think our investment in sustainable aviation fuel and more fuel-efficient aircraft is really important as part of our journey to net zero by 2050,” Andrea says.

On the day US borders reopened following 18 months of Covid-19 restrictions, both Ananda and Andrea flew on the first flight to New York, which was directly powered by 35 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), provided by bp and made from used cooking oil.

“It was the A350 to JFK in November 2021 and the flight was powered by a blend of sustainable aviation fuel and traditional jet fuel,” says Ananda.  

In the meantime, George would love to see more customers bring their own water bottles on board. “We’re also looking at how we can make our hot towel trays and plastic lids more sustainable. Lids are tricky because they must be see-through for food hygiene, security and ease of use - and currently plastic provides that,” she says. “We’re looking into different options.”

“There’s been a really positive change in the last five years,” Andrea adds. “The Champions are helping to drive real behavioural change on board and, while there is more work to do, we are already seeing progress, and there’s a growing community of crew wanting to be Champions.”

While we work on reducing waste on board, here are some small things our Champions recommend that you can do, too:

1) There are water fountains at many airports such as London Heathrow and in our lounges where you can fill up your own water bottle.

2) If you’re not going to take the amenity kit home with you, hand it back to the crew and it will be repacked for another flight.  

3) Save paper by using the British Airways app and download your mobile boarding pass instead of printing it.

This article has been tagged BA, Technology