The President of Hi Fly Airlines and the Mirpuri Foundation Paulo Mirpuri, stood shoulder to shoulder with Portuguese Minister of Environment, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, as the Minister made the surprise announcement that the Portuguese State was to cease the use of all single-use plastics by January 2019.

During the announcement made at the Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon, the minister further said that the move would extend to every department in the public administration as well as to State-tendered projects.

The Mirpuri Foundation is the sustainability partner of Hi Fly and the two organisations often dovetail their efforts to take the Foundation’s sustainability message to the four corners of the earth.

Paulo has long lobbied the Government on the dangers of single-use plastics and has already committed Hi Fly, to be the first carrier in the world to fly ‘plastic free’ by the end of 2019.

It is widely believed that the persistent and sustained campaign by the Foundation to highlight the dangers associated with single-use plastics was instrumental in the Government’s policy decision.

The sustained Foundation campaign on plastics has included, ridding the Hi Fly company offices of all single-use plastic items, hosting and supporting numerous conferences, including seven Ocean Summits. Supporting medical research into the dangers of plastic to human health, as well as funding scientific projects to find alternative products to single-use items. It has also financially backed initiatives and individuals who can help spread the Foundation’s message.

As well as the commitment to fly as the first plastic-free airline, Hi Fly planes have taken the campaign to the air and across the seas.

Having sponsored the Portuguese boat “Turn the Tide on Plastic” in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, the Foundation decided to reinforce the message by painting one of Hi Fly’s Airbus A330 in the same livery. The aircraft is currently operating worldwide amplifying the message of sustainability and protection of the seas carried by the boat.

The chosen aircraft was an Airbus A330-200, which was painted on both sides, matching the ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ boat – one dark blue ‘polluted’ side and another light blue ‘clean’ one.

“We are not interested in taking the credit, for the act of the Government,” said Paulo, immediately after the news was broken at the Summit. “But of course, we welcome it. And we believe it is the right thing to do.

“Our campaign was, and still is, about influence and education.

“We seek to throw light on the subject so that others can see for themselves what the right policy is, not just for Portugal, though we are very happy that Minister Fernandes has announced this move alongside the Foundation at this wonderful Summit in Lisbon, but for all the world.

“The real beneficiaries of this announcement will be the children of Portugal and many generations of Portuguese children to come.”

Paulo was sharing the Web Summit stage with the Minister, as well as filmmaker, explorer and environmental activist, Alexandra Cousteau, when Minister Fernandes astonished attendees and delegates with news of the proposed ban.

Alexandra Cousteau also welcomed the announcement, and congratulated Minister Fernandes saying: “Congratulations, this kind of leadership is important.”

The announcement was greeted by spontaneous applause from the thousands of people gathered at the Planet Tech stage, where, appropriately, Paulo was later due to give a speech to the Summit on sustainability.

The news comes just two weeks after Air New Zealand pledged to remove single-use plastic items from its flights, citing Hi Fly as its inspiration, and thanking Foundation chiefs for their efforts.