Can Flying Go Green?

Can Flying Go Green?

Bamboo, corn starch, PET, PCR, and now the first carton-based tube, clearly demonstrate the alternative materials and packaging available to meet airlines demands for Greener Credential, but it’s going to take more! 

‘Can Flying Go Green?’ was a recent television documentary that explored this topic, and in short, the answer was no. 

It will take action from governments, airlines, manufacturers and suppliers, and considerable advancement in technology to stand any chance of success. 

Worldwide passenger numbers have quadrupled in the past 30 years, and by 2037 they are expected to double again to 8 million people per annum. With the current technology, all these journeys have a large carbon footprint, they emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which is a scientifically proven factor in the speeding up of global warming. 

Salpa Collection
Salpa Collection

However, the airline industry is already making moves to go green by seeking alternative zero-carbon fuels, and working in partnership with the major aircraft manufacturers to develop all-electric aircraft that are commercially viable. Indeed, this year at the Paris Air Show we saw the launch of the world’s first commercial all-electric passenger aircraft, albeit at this stage just in the prototype phase. 

Speaking to Johan Lundgen, Chief Executive of EasyJet, she said that “Electric flying is becoming a reality and EasyJet can now forsee a future that is not exclusively dependent on jet fuel.” 

L'Oreal and Albea launch paper-based tube
L’Oreal and Albea launch paper-based tube

Governments around the world also need to be more proactive, although how effective this is, is questionable! When the UK government introduced an Air Passenger Duty Tax back in 1994 the tax was to pay for the environmental cost of air travel. The idea was to make passengers think twice before flying however, in reality, it just made UK flights more expensive. 

25 years on passengers have forgotten it is an environmental tax and is now just part of the norm. Passengers are expected to have paid around £3.7 billion in 2019-2020, which is the equivalent of around £130 per household according to the Office of Budget Responsibility. How is this money used to make air travel more sustainable? Is this tax really just another levy against the passenger? Who is holding the government to account to ensure that the money raised is used toward environmental schemes? Interestingly, despite the seeming financial incentive, no other country has introduced a tax of this nature. 

The passengers too are encouraged to play their part by carbon offsetting their flight. However, whilst the principle of offsetting remains appealing, is it just a case of allowing passengers to feel less guilty about flying and easing their conscience? 

Paper Kiss lipstick Albea
Paper Kiss lipstick Albea

So hats off to the onboard passenger amenity market! They are under enormous pressure with the ever-increasing demand from airlines to make the key passenger touchpoints more sustainable, greener and biodegradable. However, unfortunately, sustainability often compromises luxury, and although this might sound silly, in my experience it’s the point where most mistakes have been made. When the sum of the items included in a kit is not perceived as luxury passengers are turned off. There needs to be a movement within the luxury brands market, which means airlines can offer recognisable names, whilst not giving up the quality of the items offered. 

Virgin Atlantic Limited Edition wash bag
Virgin Atlantic Limited Edition wash bag made from the up cycled seat lather

In the past, we have reported on the continual quest by suppliers to provide airlines with sustainable options, and airlines, to their credit, have adopted a number of them. Including combs, hairbrushes, shoehorns and toothbrushes made from bamboo or corn starch, removing plastic packaging from around individual items replacing it with paper, and cardboard barrel pens. 

However, we must remind ourselves sustainability is not a new issue, but it certainly is the buzz word of today for our market. Indeed, suppliers have been developing and researching sustainable alternatives for the past 15 years whilst struggling with reducing costs. 

Take Albéa a pioneer in terms of sustainability, as a major manufacturer of packaging for beauty solutions that we all use every day including tubes, perfumes and lotion pump applicators. 

They were the first cosmetic packaging company to sign the New Global Plastic Commitment from the Ellen McArthur Foundation committing to making 100% of plastic packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025.


Albéa PCR range
Albéa PCR range

L’Oréal in partnership with Albéa announced recently a breakthrough innovation for cosmetic packaging inventing the first carton-based tube, where plastic is for the most part replaced with bio-based and certified paper-like material. 

Philippe Thuvien, Vice-President Packaging & Development of L’Oréal, explains: “By working closely with Albéa to co-develop this breakthrough innovation, we aim to create a new paper-based tube packaging for our cosmetic packaging. We target a first market launch for skincare products in the second half of 2020.” 

Other responsible packaging alternatives that Albéa presented at LUXE PACK MONACO the premier show for creative packaging earlier this year include 

• A new range of tubes with three different PCR concentrates to respond to market expectation

• Paper Kiss lipstick packaging made from FSC-certified cardboard sourced from sustainably managed forests. The plastic mechanism is detachable from cardboard packaging for better paper recyclability. Besides being eco-designed the cardboard packaging allows infinite design possibilities

• A range of 100% PCR packaging offer with lotion pumps, foam pumps and mascara.

It, therefore, goes without saying that in time we will see these packaging innovations introduced into airline amenity kits, with the traditional, almost predictable small range cosmetic, lip balms being packaged in paper, hydrating facial mists and perfumes in 100% PCR packaging and facial moisturiser and hand and body lotion in paper-based tubes 

Albéa Travel Designer clearly benefit from Albéa’s strong commitment to investing in the research and development of innovative sustainable technologies was clearly evident on their stand at IFSA Expo in September.

On display were new polybags and amenity kits designed from bio-sourced plastics as well as fibres from pineapple and banana waste. 

Vegetal & RPET Collection
Vegetal & RPET Collection

Upcycling is another key sustainable solution with Virgin Atlantic together with Galileo Watermark recently creating a limited-edition washbag to gift to all passengers on the inaugural brand new A350 aircraft flight. The bag itself is made from the upcycled seat leather and lined with upholstery from the new ‘Loft’ space – a newly designed social area to relax away from the main cabin.

It’s clear that our industry is certainly going that extra mile to help airlines meet their Corporate Social Responsibility, and the environmental issues in air transport have grown in importance in recent years.

As global airlines become more proactive to demonstrate their green credentials, it is worth remembering that becoming more sustainable will, in the short term cost more. Airlines will have to invest more in passenger amenities if they are going to continue to meet, and satisfy the increasing demand of their guests on both luxury and sustainability.

To make sustainability a success it will take a monumental effort, with all areas pulling in the same direction. The packaging options and reduction of single-use plastics is an important baby step in the road to change. However, suppliers, manufacturers, airlines, brands and passengers will all have to work together to find a solution in time to help the planet. The technology is beginning to come through, now is the time to seize it, invest in it, and make it a reality.