Air New Zealand has pledged to remove nearly 55 million single-use plastic items from its operations this year, more than doubling its last annual total.

As part of the Plastic Free July initiative, the national airline has removed individual plastic water bottles from its business premier and premium economy cabins, as well as from its works deluxe offering on Tasman and Pacific Island services.

The move is expected to prevent more than 460,000 bottles from reaching landfill each year, while also cutting the airline’s annual carbon emissions figure by over 300,000kg through reducing the weight carried on an aircraft.

Individual plastic sauce packets are currently being removed from Air New Zealand’s business premier cabins on North America and Hong Kong services, with the company planning to have completely eliminated them from its global network by October.

This will stop around 200,000 plastic packets going to landfill every year. Reusable dishes will be introduced as an alternative form of serving sauce to customers.

Air New Zealand sustainability acting head Anna Palairet said: “Single-use plastic is a highly topical and visible issue for us and our customers, so we’re really pleased to be able to share this progress to celebrate Plastic Free July.

“The lack of composting infrastructure available in New Zealand is a challenge, so we have been focused on reducing the amount of single-use plastic products we purchase in the first place.

“It’s great to see more and more customers are bringing their reusable drink bottles and keep cups on-board, and we encourage people to do this, our cabin crew team is happy to fill these.”

Air New Zealand will also cease the use of plastic water cups from September, replacing them with recyclable alternatives.

The following month, the airline will launch coffee cups made from plant-based materials across its domestic and international networks.

In February, another major airline in Qantas Group introduced sustainable initiatives for its material use by committing to reuse, recycle and compost at least 75% of its general waste by the end of 2021.