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October 6th, 2015:

Cathay Pacific’s green campaign takes a nose-dive as it emerges it’s recycling less and emitting more carbon dioxide than ever

Danny Lee

Cathay Pacific’s green campaign appears to have slumped, with the volume of plastic bottles it recycles dropping by more than half in the space of three years.

And the amount of carbon dioxide its planes emit into the atmosphere has reached its highest level ever.

In unveiling the airline’s latest sustainability report yesterday, chief executive Ivan Chu Kwok-leung said: “As an airline, we unavoidably emit carbon when we operate, but it’s important we do things to compensate for that so that we can leave a good legacy for the future.”


In last year, Cathay Pacific and sister company Dragonair recycled 22,360kg of plastic cups, 20,797kg of plastic bottles, and 16,933kg of aluminium cans on Cathay Pacific inbound flights to Hong Kong. Cathay managed to recycle as much as 55,000kg of plastic bottles in 2011 but has failed to sustain that level.

On Monday night Cathay blamed the falling volume of recycled waste on suppliers using lighter materials.

A company spokeswoman said: “For example, the new 9oz plastic cup used in economy class is 33 per cent lighter than the previous cup and is more elastic, durable and recyclable. This would contribute to the falling weight of our recycling materials over the years.”

Hong Kong’s biggest airline said last month that it was ramping up efforts to reduce inflight waste and source more sustainable materials.

With rising emissions, the company defended the rise. The airline explained it is operating more flights than ever before to more destinations, and flying further. Cathay and Dragonair’s fleet of 188 aircraft are also filling up with more passengers and more seats are being added. All combined means carbon emissions per passenger is lower.

“While we expect our emissions to increase in relation to our business growth, our absolute emissions cannot be viewed in isolation of our fuel efficiency improvement. Instead both need to be viewed together to get the full picture,” a Cathay spokeswoman said.

The biggest gas-guzzling aircraft, including the four-engine passenger Boeing 747 aircraft and Airbus A340, will leave the fleet by 2017.

The rise in carbon dioxide emissions may slow or fall in coming years as Cathay is set to receive the first of 48 greener jets – the Airbus A350 – in February. These use around 20 per cent less fuel.