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​Air Canada to reduce single-use plastics

Latest sustainability efforts for Canada's major airline to start with elimination of plastic stir sticks

​Air Canada to reduce single-use plastics

Air Canada has announced that the airline will reduce single-use plastics onboard its aircraft and in its workplaces as part of the company's ongoing commitment to curtail waste. Starting in Summer 2019, Air Canada will replace plastic with wood stir sticks in drinks served on all flights, a move that will save 35 million plastic stir sticks annually - enough if laid end-to-end to join Halifax and Vancouver.  

"Air Canada has made sustainability central to its decision-making and business processes, including acting responsibly with respect to the environment. Through seemingly small measures such as eliminating plastic stir sticks, to major investments such as our $10 billion fleet modernization, we are making great strides in our ongoing sustainability programs, notably improving fuel efficiency by 43 per cent since 1990," said Teresa Ehman, Director of Environmental Affairs at Air Canada. "Air Transport World Magazine recognized the effectiveness of our environmental programs when it named Air Canada the 2018 Eco-Airline of the Year, citing our participation in the development and support of alternative fuels in Canada, and our innovative sustainability programs."

Air Canada's stir stick replacement will be made of bamboo and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which assures products come from responsible sources so that forests remain thriving environments for generations to come.

According to Air Canada, the company's ongoing plastic reduction efforts also include researching and rethinking important decisions made at various stages of the supply chain. The company is supporting this work in partnership with University of Toronto graduate students in their final year of their Master of Science in Sustainability Management program. The students are working with Air Canada to identify alternatives to plastic use onboard the company's aircraft.

 Looking ahead to 2020, Air Canada has set environmental targets to reduce waste sent to landfills from offices, facilities and Maple Leaf Lounges by 20 percent, or just under the equivalent weight of two empty Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, and to recycle 50 percent of approved items onboard.

Waste reduction at Air Canada is about more than recycling paper and aluminum cans, the company also states. For example, since 2016 Air Canada has partnered with Partners in Project Green to distribute lightly used duvets to social service agencies that assist people in need and other duvets are donated to local kennels. To date over 13,000 duvets have been donated, equivalent to over 20,000 kilograms of material.

Additionally, when Air Canada announced new uniforms in 2017, creative solutions to reduce landfill waste were identified:

  • Employee uniform pieces were donated to Brands for Canada who removed all branding and offered the items to people re-entering the workforce, without the means to purchase new clothes, and hoping to begin new careers.
  • Uniforms shredded and repurposed into stuffing for punching bags that were donated to community centres, converted into alternative items such as automotive stuffing or incinerated to generate energy. 

Air Canada is the country's largest domestic and international airline serving more than 210 airports on six continents.

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