Emirates has recycled more than 500,000kg of plastic and glass over the course of 2022, by collecting discarded bottles onboard for repurposing. 500,000kg is almost the same weight as a fully loaded Emirates flagship A380 aircraft.

Onboard every flight that lands in Dubai, Emirates cabin crew quickly separate glass and plastic bottles, before they are sent to a recycling plant in Dubai. The glass is separated by colour and crushed. This ‘cullet’ or recycled glass that is ready to be re-melted, is then sent to glass manufacturers in the UAE to include in their batch mix for new bottles.

The plastic bottles are cleaned, chopped into flakes, melted into pellets and sent to manufacturers to make other plastic products.

This glass and plastic recycling initiative was suggested by Emirates cabin crew in 2019, as part of regular webinars and events where they are given a platform to share feedback and encouraged to share innovative ideas to key departments. The proposal was well-received and implemented within weeks.

Emirates has several other initiatives which focus on repurposing plastic or using sustainable materials where possible.

For the last six years, Emirates has offered cosy, sustainable blankets made from recycled plastic bottles to economy passengers on long-haul flights. These blankets are made from 28 recycled plastic bottles each. The bottles are shredded into plastic chips before being turned into yarn, creating a fleece material. The fine thread is then woven into soft blankets.

Since the initiative started, Emirates blankets have prevented more than 95 million plastic bottles from going to the landfill. The manufacturing process of using recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) also reduces energy emissions by around 70 per cent.

Consuming responsibly is a key environmental focus area for Emirates, which has embedded an environmental requirement in the supplier code of conduct and considers the entire lifecycle of products from the design stage. For example, wooden tea and coffee stirrers, paper straws and inflight retail bags are made using wood and paper from responsibly managed forests.

For Emirates’ youngest customers, the airline’s complimentary toy bags, baby amenity kits and plush toys are also made from recycled plastic bottles and other sustainable materials. Belt bags, duffle bags and backpacks are designed with specific age groups in mind and are constructed from a yarn that is made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles.

The production of the Emirates children’s bags has saved eight million plastic bottles from landfill.

Emirates’ premium economy and economy class range of amenity kits are complimentary for customers on long-haul flights, and feature designs that represent the four essential elements of nature – fire, water, earth, and air. The pouches are reusable and made from washable kraft paper with bespoke art printed in non-toxic soy-based ink.

The contents include a selection of durable travel essentials made from environmentally friendly materials. The toothbrush is made from a combination of wheat straw and plastic, and the socks and eyeshades are made from recycled plastic, in this case, rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate). The packaging used for the dental kit, socks and eyeshades is made from 90 per cent rice paper.

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