Eurostar to set science-based target and halve use of plastic

High-speed rail service Eurostar has pledged to halve the amount of plastic it uses over the next two years, with the organisation's energy and environment lead Rebecca Cranshaw revealing that a science-based target to reduce emissions should be in place later this year.

Eurostar announced an update to its Tread Lightly strategy earlier this week, outlining plans to reduce waste, improve the energy efficiency of trains and invest in renewable electricity.

A notable emission from the sweeping 10-point strategy is a carbon reduction target, and Eurostar’s energy and environment lead Rebecca Cranshaw told edie that the organisation expected to unveil a science-based target, aligned to the 2C pathway of the Paris Agreement, later this year.

“This year we’ll be working with the Carbon Trust to set a climate target” Cranshaw said. “We’ll be starting the process in a few weeks’ time to look at what methodologies we’ll use with the aim of setting a target later this year. I think it will probably be aligned to 2C but that is yet to be determined.”

The anticipated carbon target will add Eurostar to the more than 300 companies currently targeting emission reductions in line with climate science.

Eurostar set the new targets to build on achievements spanning the last eight years, including a 32% reduction in carbon emissions and a 50% decline in waste generated across the business.

The latest Tread Lightly commitments focus on minimising waste on board and identifying alternatives to traditional packaging. Not only will Eurostar target a 50% reduction in plastics over the next two years, it will also aim to reduce the usage of paper tickets.

Plastics have emerged as the emblematic issue of early 2018, with heightened media and consumer awareness and long-term policy frameworks forcing businesses to set a range of measures that reduce use of certain types of plastic.

Cranshaw, who led the creation and implementation of the Tread Lightly strategy, noted that Eurostar had been examining its own use of plastic since last summer and that the publication of the strategy was always scheduled for 2018, rather than the firm announcing it because of heightened scrutiny.

“It is a lofty goal and we are very aware of that,” Cranshaw added. “But it was driven from the chief executive and his passion around this issue to drive down the sheer amount of plastic we use around the business. We’re pushing ourselves to find an alternative and it’s not like we know exactly how we’re going to achieve a 50% reduction, but we wanted to really challenge ourselves and make sure we do as much as we can.

“It’s become such an issue, especially in the last few months through the media, it’s now in the mindset of our employees and passengers. Yes, it’s a huge target and we realise that, but it’s one we’re determined to push for. We’ve been looking into it since August, and it’s been a long time coming.”

Whereas some firms are taking small steps by targeting individual plastic products, Eurostar is attempting to halve the amount of plastic it uses in just two years. While the amount of plastic used by Eurostar is yet to be disclosed, the ambition has been kickstarted by a programme that eliminates all uses of plastic straws onboard Eurostar trains and in business lounges.

The plastic straw phase-out will be followed by a similar initiative targeting plastic water bottles and any products that passengers are likely to use, such as cutlery. On-board communications and social media will also be used to raise awareness among passengers.

Tread Lightly

The Tread Lightly strategy also places a big emphasis on energy efficiency and carbon emissions. Eurostar claims that high-speed rail emits up to 90% less carbon when travelling from London to Paris compared to flying and produces less carbon per passenger than individual car journeys from central London to Heathrow Airport. In fact, one of the pillars of Heathrow’s new sustainability strategy is to encourage travellers to take trains and other public transport routes.

The new 10-point plan aims to reduce energy used by trains by 5% by 2020, while reducing traction energy, installing energy metres and delivering energy-efficient driving programmes to drivers.

Eurostar will target low-carbon alternatives to fuel train journeys by 2030 and will invest in renewable energy at its UK depot – Eurostar’s biggest industrial facility – by installing “banks of solar panels”.

Commitments are also in place to replace all owned vehicles with electric alternatives by 2020 and Eurostar will work with suppliers to switch to electric refrigerated HGVs.

For new waste commitments, Eurostar will continue to prevent waste being sent to landfill at stations and is aiming to increase recycling rates. A working group has been set up to focus on reducing plastic uses, while digital technology will build on Eurostar’s current reductions in paper use. Again, a 50% reduction has been targeted for 2020.

Finally, Eurostar is attempting to upgrade its two-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association for onboard and business lounge food and drink to a three-star rating by 2020.

Matt Mace

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