Every year before the pandemic, low-cost airline AirAsia threw away up to 5,000 uniforms, 200 seat belts and 100 life jackets, or about 3,800 kg (8,380 pounds) of wasted fabric in landfills. However, the budget hauler wanted to change things in a greener direction, resulting in the Soggy No-More lifestyle collection.
Too much waste, too little space
The lifespan of most internal aircraft safety equipment is typically a decade, after which AirAsia would reuse, recycle or return the equipment to the manufacturer. However, items such as life jackets have been more difficult to return or reuse because passengers have tampered with the packaging. The tampering would have resulted in the deployment of life jackets, which should have been replaced for safety reasons.
Certainly, it is cheaper and much faster to buy new life jackets to replace them than to send the defective ones back to the manufacturers for a new test. And with airlines working around the clock with so many passengers every day, safety becomes an immediate concern that can’t wait, which is why so many life jackets have ended up being ‘discarded’.
Passengers are always warned never to touch the life jackets except in an emergency. Photo: Getty Images
However, life jackets and old uniforms are not biodegradable. AirAsia usually stores them in a large warehouse in Selangor, Malaysia, as part of the airline’s internal efforts to manage waste. Still, the warehouse has limited space, as the executive director of the AirAsia Foundation – the philanthropic arm of the budget carrier, Yap Mun Ching pointed out:
“There are thousands of items in the warehouse. The airline doesn’t throw anything away, so they just sit there. But we’re running out of space in the warehouse. And we can’t use other materials for the vests salvage because these are industry standard regulations, so they will sit in the warehouse or landfill for the next 200 years, at least.”
So in 2018, the Soggy No-More collection was launched as an upcycling initiative to give a whole new life to unusable life jackets and old uniforms in the form of fashion and lifestyle accessories. . The initiative was also launched in collaboration with Nazanin, an Afghan refugee social enterprise in Kuala Lumpur, as the foundation did not plan to use a factory.
Instead, the AirAsia Foundation enlisted the help of Qasem – an Afghan refugee who, along with two assistants, produced the props as part of his livelihood. Yap highlighted the initiative’s importance in providing livelihoods to those in need, commenting:
“If I go to a factory, the products could be produced in a week. Qasem needs at least two months to produce around 2,000 items. But it would not be the same if the products were produced in a factory, and we need to keep the story of empowering people in need of income.”
Yap added that with Qasem’s handiwork and aesthetically functional designs incorporated into the Soggy No-More collection, the recycled products would not be considered a charity sale, but rather something consumers really want to buy.
Durability, but make it fashionable
Over the past four years, the Soggy No-More collection has introduced several fashionable and functional items, such as coin purses, cutlery cases, bicycle handlebar bags and shoulder bags. Initially, the collection was only available at occasional pop-up stores in Malaysia and on board select AirAsia flights.
But since the buzz has always been positive, the AirAsia Foundation has finally moved the Soggy No-More collection to its social enterprise online retail platform, good destination. Consumers could regularly check for updates of new collections or purchase existing products through the platform.
And this year, the Soggy No-More collection is making another comeback with more new items, but with an exciting twist as it’s the AirAsia Foundation’s 10th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, the collection offers several new limited edition designs that show products in orange instead of the standard yellow.
At the end of the line
While airline upcycling initiatives are not exactly a brand new concept, several carriers have done it in the past and still do, such sustainable initiatives are welcomed by consumers as waste is reduced and airlines aerials present themselves as a brand more concerned with the environment. . For AirAsia and its Soggy No-More collection, the low-cost airline says the products of the future are constantly evolving, such as rain hats, shoe covers, bibs, scrunchies and even soccer balls. .
And in addition to Soggy No-More, AirAsia also had seat belts recycled into eco-friendly chew toys for dogs as part of its Tuff Tag collection in collaboration with Animal Projects & Environmental Education, which eventually sold out in 2020. The faulty covers were also turned into a 12-piece fashion collection in partnership with design house Projek Jahat, which sold out almost instantly after it premiered at KL Fashion Week in 2019.
The idea of new collections that AirAsia might come up with is exciting because the ideas are endless, so it’s best for consumers to keep a regular eye out to see what the budget carrier is up to next.
- IATA/ICAO code:
- Airline type:
- low cost carrier
- Year of foundation:
- Riad Asmat