Food-to-go giants support Dubai Airport's ban on single-use plastics

A string of big-name food-to-go brands including McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Pret A Manger have unveiled plastic-free offerings to be piloted at Dubai Airport next month, as part of the airport's commitment to eliminate single-use plastics.

Announced in June, Dubai Airport’s commitment binds it to begin phasing out all single-use plastic items in products and operations on 1 January 2020.

The airport claims that the 90 million passengers which pass through the facility each year consume “tens of thousands” of single-use plastic items on a daily basis, with water bottles, straws and coffee lids among some of the most frequently used items. Annually, the airport generates 5,500 tonnes of single-use plastics.

To that end, the airport has been asking all commercial partnered to pledge to stop using all disposable plastics in their outlet, and has today (9 December) revealed that 95% of these businesses have signed that commitment.

Signatories of the commitment include Costa Coffee, which will replace its plastic-lined coffee cups with an alternative made using materials which purport to be renewable and plant-based in January. The chain will then launch biodegradable coffee cup lids made from 100% wood fibres later on in 2020.

McDonalds, Giraffe and Pret A Manger have also pledged to remove all consumer-facing plastic items from their Dubai Airport concessions by June 2020. McDonalds is notably working to introduce several plastic-free packaging innovations across Europe, including new McFlurry and Salad containers, wooden spoons and paper straws.

A further 290 retail and food and beverage businesses have signed Dubai Airport’s commitment, but the transport hub has not provided exact details regarding the alternatives they are piloting, and what timescales they are working towards.

Following research revealing an uptick in the proportion of passengers happy to carry a refillable water bottle, Dubai Airport will also invest in the installation of water fountains across its two sites.

“Pressure is growing for corporations and individuals to act more responsibly and adopt more sustainable practices to fight against plastic pollution and preserve marine life,” Dubai Airport’s executive vice president Eugene Barry said.

“The changes happening on such a huge scale as a result of Dubai Airports’ ban could soon become a template for other major transportation hubs and organisations around the world to follow.”

Journey towards plastic-free

With the so-called war on plastics showing no sign of slowing down, Dubai Airport is one of several transport hubs to have introduced new measures to help reduce the distribution of single-use food and beverage packaging.

In the UK, Gatwick Airport has introduced a reusable coffee cup lending scheme, while Heathrow is recycling the equivalent of one coffee cup for each one it sells and has signed up to City to Sea’s Refill initiative. Other supporters of Refill in the transport space include Network Rail.

On a global scale, plastics phase-outs are also being completed by international airlines Virgin Australia, Etihad and Hi Fly, as well as international train operator Eurostar.

Thomas Cook had also pledged to deliver plastic-free flights and resorts prior to entering administration. Hays Travel, which is taking over all 555 of Thomas Cook’s stores, is yet to confirm whether it will continue in line with this commitment.


Join edie's free online event on single-use plastics 

Registration is now open for an afternoon of live, interactive webinar presentations and discussions on Thursday 16 January - all dedicated to helping businesses collaborate, innovate and actuate to eliminate single-use plastics.

These Business Leadership Inspiration Sessions will help sustainability and resource efficiency professionals who are looking to make 2020 the year that they turn the tide on single-use plastics.

Full details and registration can be found here. 


Sarah George



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