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Low Waste Travel: Food whilst Flying

Happy plastic free July everyone! For the second in our low waste travel series we are talking about food whilst flying, a plastic dilemma.

If you've been keeping up on our instagram you'll know we had a bit of an issue sorting out food for the flight. Every time we've flown we have either refused a meal or given it to a family member - I don't like airplane food and tend to not be hungry. But we are much further in our low waste journey now, and understand it isn't as black and white, because everything on a plane gets thrown to landfill, eaten or not. Because it was only us two we couldn't offer our meal to anyone else either, so we called Emirates and asked if we could cancel our meal so that it wasn't made all together. Turns out that wasn't possible, so we settled for the lesser of two evils, and both got vegan meals.

When we got our first meal, breakfast, we immediately noticed that it had less plastic than the regular meal.

Recycling (obviously we have no control over whether this actually ends up getting recycled): plastic container the sandwich was in, the plastic cover over the fruit, the container for the water, the condiments, the paper bag the cutlery was in, and the stirrers (with the cutlery)

Landfill: Plastic cling film, cover of the water

The hand wipes we gave to the people next to us, they said they use them so at least they wouldn't need to buy some for a little while longer. The sugar, salt, and pepper sachets we kept, but then on the second flight were able to give them back as the flight attendants said they reuse them if not open. This was great because from the first flight alone we had 12 of those. We also took the napkins back for reuse. However I would recommend taking the sachets out of the paper bag they are kept in and giving them to a flight attendant yourself because if you simply leave it on the tray they will throw it away. We got great response from the flight attendants who helped us understand as best as they could what happened to everything. On the first flight one of the flight attendants explained that all of the hard plastics pictured below get reused, which would seem obvious but it's good to know it as a fact.

Then we had the lunch which had equal amounts of plastic compared to the regular meals. All that we listed above about what we did with everything was the same except for the aluminium foil which we recycled and the bag for the bread which went to landfill.

On the second flight we luckily only had one meal which cut down our waste by a lot, but they gave us snacks (two breads and two muesli bars) which both weren't recyclable.

Recycling: Everything for the water container (this time the cover was foil), only one plastic cover as the mango dessert didn’t come with one, the foil covering the main course, the stirrers, the paper bag, the condiments

Landfill: Plastic bag for the bread, plastic packaging for the crackers, plastic packaging for the vegan cheese

The wipes we gave back to a flight attendant for reuse, as well as the pepper, salt, and sugar sachets.

You can just imagine how much plastic this left us with; we had 38 items of plastic (4 aluminium foils) to recycle, and sent 8 items to landfill. This is more plastic than we would use in months, so it was extremely overwhelming to feel as though there was nothing we could do to avoid it. Of course we could of refused the meal and felt much better about ourselves, but we would of been sending loads of plastic to landfill (versus recycling) and throwing out perfectly good food as well. So, our eco-ego's had to take a hit. Travelling is something that we have access to and it's an amazing way to get to know the beautiful world around us and the people that inhabit it, but of course waste is inevitable and this can be hard to come to terms with. If we were perfect eco people, we wouldn’t travel and all this waste could be avoided, but life is not that black and white. And I guess we are also selfish. Anyways either way travelling isn’t going to stop, but sustainable travelling can begin, and if we can push for companies to make changes so that photos such as the ones above don’t exist, then that would be the ultimate goal.

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