A Flight Of Fancy?

I’m high. 38,000 feet high to be exact, charging through the air at 567mph.
My seat is comfortable, I’m taking a break from watching a classic movie, and my complimentary three course lunch is settling nicely.
I’m on my way to Mexico for an orgy of Mexican street food and tequila, and the weather promises to be superb.
Yet I have a growing sense of unease. I’m not feeling guilty about flying long haul. Sure, aviation is a dirty business, but rightly or wrongly I rationalised that it will only get cleaner with investment and development, and that can only come from successfully selling the idea of flying to ever more customers (and therefore investors). No, my problem started with lunch, or rather the small mountain of plastic that accompanied it. The plastic tray came with a plastic cup, the obligatory plastic cutlery – all wrapped in plastic, a plastic pot of dessert, a plastic pot of water and so on. Thats a lot of plastic when you times it by 300 passengers.
But it doesn’t end there. I’m flying in a plastic aeroplane. Seriously. The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” has plastic wings. And a plastic fuselage. And plastic seats. And a plastic curtain between “premium” class and cattle class. I, naturally, am on the wrong side of the curtain tracks…
I’m sitting in a 250 ton, 50% plastic, behemoth, producing more waste plastic for the planet to deal with.
Somehow I doubt that the magnificent Dreamliner is the product of a gazillion recycled milk bottles, crisp packets and plastic forks, and I wonder how much of it, at the end of it’s service life, will itself be recycled (apparently German recycling company ELG is working on this).
I’m not going to suggest we return to building aircraft out of wood and canvas, but surely the aviation industry could show a little compromise? Almost all that plastic packaging could have been paper. Recyclable wooden cutlery is readily available (we use it for take-away customers at Chilli Devil’s bar). The trays could be made from similar material. It seems almost trivial at first glance, and perhaps on an individual passenger basis it is. But an industry wide initiative to replace all unnecessary plastic throughout a worldwide industry transporting millions of people a day, would be anything but trivial.
I’ve never been so glad to see a cup of tea served in a paper cup.

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