In the unlikely event a person finds themselves asking: “How many empty one-litre plastic bottles equals a fully loaded A380 in weight?” The correct answer would be 12.5 million bottles. This comes to about 500,000 kg which, incidentally, is also the amount of plastic and glass that Emirates recycles in a year.
As the United Arab Emirates pursues green initiatives with high profile efforts in renewable energy and greater sustainability, Emirates, whose chairman is a member of the UAE’s ruling Al-Maktoum family, seems to tread a similar path.
“Emirates believes in driving radical changes in the customer experience, which also includes small touches that make a big difference, not only for customers but the planet as well,” said Rashid Al Ardha, Country Manager for Singapore & Brunei with Emirates. “We have reaffirmed our commitment to sustainability with initiatives on board and on the ground, focusing on a few key areas that include reducing emissions, consuming responsibly, generating clean energy, and contributing to food security and sustainable production.”
The aforementioned 500,000 kilograms of plastic and glass begins its transformation journey when an Emirates plane lands in Dubai, and the products is transported to one of Emirates’ many recycling facilities, where it is recycled to create new glass bottles, backpacks and the fleece-like, ultra-soft blankets that have become a central feature of comfort aboard Emirates. This initiative alone would save 88 million plastic bottles from landfills in Dubai.
However, amenities and accessories are not the only instances of sustainability found onboard an Emirates flight. Beyond recycling materials, Emirates has partnered with Dilmah, the world-renowned carbon neutral tea supplier since 1992. Whilst sourcing from sustainable companies, Emirates still ensures the quality of its products with Dilmah creating the uniquely Arabian influenced Emirates Signature Tea exclusively for first class passengers. People in other classes are not forgotten, enjoying a selection of artisanal teas curated by Dilmah ranging from a traditional breakfast tea to the more artisanal concoction of turmeric, coconut and vanilla.
As for inflight food, the vegetables served are sourced from Emirates’ hydroponic farm, Bustanica, the largest in the world. Accordingly, it produces 1 million kilograms of leafy greens annually from lettuce to spinach, all while requiring 95% less water than conventional agriculture. That’s right, the vegetables on all Emirates’ flights come from the barren desert.
Beyond the interior, and arguably more importantly, Emirates has introduced the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) blended with 50% conventional fuel in its fleet, in line with aviation safety practices regarding the use of SAF. But it’s not stopping there.
In January this year, Emirates operated its first milestone demonstration flight on a Boeing 777-300ER, powering one of its engines with 100% SAF as it takes significant strides towards a future of 100% SAF flying and supports broader efforts to reduce lifecycle CO2 emissions as the industry looks to scale up its use of SAF.
“The flights will also help to refine the playbook for future SAF demonstrations, and support future certification where 100% drop-in SAF fuel is approved for aircraft,” said Rashid Al Ardha, adding, “Emirates’ policy of investing in the most modern, eco-efficient technology available means it has one of the youngest fleets in the industry. The environmental benefits of operating a modern wide-body fleet include both reduced noise and lower engine emissions. Emirates Engineering ensures that its aircraft are performing at their optimum level at all times, with engine washing procedures that keep internal engine components clean, maintaining fuel-efficient performance and prolonging the useful life of the engine.”
In a way, Emirates is having its own Greenliner programme, the lauded sustainability initiative by fellow Emirati airline, Etihad.
Meanwhile, on the surface, Emirates is investing in solar power systems, harnessing the desert’s abundance of sunlight, in major facilities in Dubai including the Emirates Engine maintenance centre, reducing carbon dioxide emissions from these facilities by 4 million kilograms. With planes and buildings contributing the bulk of carbon emissions, Emirates is definitely taking concrete steps in its pursuit of sustainability.
The spirit behind these initiatives is embodied even in Emirates’ highest leadership. “We know that every little effort counts, especially when magnified by the scale of our global operations and workforce. Just as we know that to make a truly meaningful impact, sustainability efforts have to be continuous and long‑term,” wrote the Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in a statement encapsulating the group’s commitment to sustainability.
Emirates might have taken sustainability to the next stratosphere, and we celebrate any effort to go green, but we celebrate even more the airlines’ recognition that they can continue to do more. With Emirates, the sky’s not the limit – it’s only the beginning.