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How Dhanushka De Silva took SriLankan towards net zero via ‘Mathaka’ and more
"The biggest challenge in sustainability is convincing management and changing the mindset of staff members to discontinue their way of thinking and adhere to a more responsible approach and incorporate sustainable work practices." - Dhanushka De Silva, Former Environmental Affairs & Sustainability Manager at SriLankan
While Sri Lanka’s political and economic meltdown grabbed international attention in the last year, the national airline continued to make quiet progress towards a more sustainable planet.
In October 2022, SriLankan Airlines won the Best Aviation Sustainability Program Award, beating 118 other submissions at the SMBR Global Aviation Awards for its signature upcycle project, ‘Mathaka’ Project Mathaka was SriLankan Airlines’ answer to minimising its contribution to landfill waste and ecological footprint by repurposing the airline’s scrap material into a variety of lifestyle products.
SriLankan partnered with House of Lonali, a Sri Lankan organisation that designs and manufactures upcycled lifestyle products, to develop an exclusive range of products under the ‘Mathaka’ brand such as travel bags, wallets, and jewelry. The items made entirely from disposed airline uniforms, aircraft interior components, and other materials, will eventually be introduced for sale onboard SriLankan Airlines’ flights and through the website and retail partners of House of Lonali.
Meet the Changemaker
Dhanushka De Silva, Former Environmental Affairs & Sustainability Manager at SriLankan Airlines is an aviation enthusiast with over 23 years of experience at Sri Lanka’s national flag carrier. He holds a specialisation in ‘aviation environment management’.
For the airline, Dhanushka was engaged in various programmes and efforts such as Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), Global Market Based Measures (GMBM), European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU EST), SAF and United for Wildlife, the global initiative to crack down the global illegal wildlife trafficking. In October 2022, Dhanushka moved on from his position, but not before giving us some valuable time and insights into SriLankan's strategy.
Dhanushka was responsible for establishing the environment unit at SriLankan and developing the airline’s strategy on environment conservation while introducing green initiatives throughout the airline. “This led SriLankan to be recognised and praised by IATA as one of the most environmentally conscious airlines in the region”, he proudly says.
It’s worth noting that SriLankan was the first airline in Asia to introduce ‘Planet Friendly Flights’ back in 2009 and was named the second lowest carbon emitting airline in the Asia-Pacific in 2016 by Business Traveller. Since 2015, it has also had a voluntary carbon offsetting programme called Fly Green.