Emirates uses the blankets for around three months after which the airlines uses them for charitable purposes. Image Credit: Courtesy: Emirates airline

Dubai: The next time you board a long-haul Emirates flight and feel warm in a comforter, remember that what you are covering up with is not a blanket made of cotton, but from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles.

For each blanket, the airline ensures that 28 plastic bottles do not end up in landfills.

Introduced by the airline in its Economy class on all long-haul flights (above six hours), in 2016, these sustainable blankets are now offered to passengers in all three classes.

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Speaking to Gulf News about the initiative, believed to be the largest sustainable blanket programme on board in the airline industry, Joost Heymeijer, senior vice-president, Emirates Catering, said Emirates ecoTHREAD blankets are made using innovation that recycles plastic and turns it into yarn.

“Emirates ecoTHREAD blankets are designed in partnership with inflight specialist Buzz and are made using ecoTHREAD patented technology. The bottles are recycled into plastic chips before being turned into yarn, creating a polar fleece material. The fine thread is then woven into blankets which are both soft and durable,” he said.

 Emirates blankets are designed in partnership with inflight specialist Buzz made using ecoTHREAD technology. The bottles are recycled into plastic chips before being turned into yarn, creating a polar fleece material, which is then woven into blankets.”

 - Joost Heymeijer | Senior vice-president, Emirates Catering 

By the end of 2019, these Emirates ecoTHREAD blankets would have kept 88 million plastic bottles away from landfills – equivalent to the weight of 44 A380 aircraft, he added.

Heymeijer said that the blankets have received positive feedback from passengers, with many saying that they find them warmer and more comfortable. “The blankets can last for around three months, and that is when we remove them from circulation and then use them for charitable purposes.”

Emirates works with partners to process the recycling, and, according to Heymeijer, ecoTHREAD is certified with the Intertek Green Leaf Mark by third party testing and certification body Intertek, independently verified to use 100 per cent recycled materials.

“The manufacturing process used to create an ecoThread blanket involves the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate [PET], which is the key factor that reduces energy emissions by 70 per cent,” he said.

The airline has undertaken many initiatives in its commitment to product innovation and sustainability, which includes recycling aluminium cans, plastic and glass bottles, and clean paper products such as newspapers, magazines and cardboard cartons whenever possible.

Indian expat drives change with Give a Tee Take a Bag initiative

A Dubai resident and mother of two has taken the initiative to encourage the community to go plastic-free. Renuka Krishnan (pictured below) from India came up with the idea of turning unwanted t-shirts into what she calls “T-bags”.

Krishnan said the idea struck her five years ago when her two boys began outgrowing their t-shirts and she thought she could slightly alter them and use them to carry groceries. Since then, she carries her T-bags everywhere. “I now keep at least 15 of the bags in the car. They are fantastic to use and very durable,” she said.

Krishnan explained that it only takes her a few minutes to turn these t-shirts into bags. “The first step is to cut out the neck piece and then move on to the sleeves. The bottom of the t-shirt is sewn to become the base and the sleeves become the handle. I have a sewing machine that makes it faster and more durable, but they can also be sewn by hand,” she said, pointing out that each T-bag can carry 5-10kg.

Through her Facebook page, Give a Tee Take a Bag, Krishnan has tried to get more people to stop using plastic bags.

“I visit schools and associations to give lectures and workshops about this and I’ve also created a Facebook page that encourages people to come forward with an old t-shirt that I can help turn into a bag,” she said.

Krishnan said she’d love to see her project encourage more volunteers to do something within their communities.

“We are known as T-bag family, and now shopkeepers are used to us and appreciate what we do. We have also reduced plastic coming home — we carry our own mugs and use glass containers.”