Air New Zealand begins innovative recycling project

Air New Zealand has this week launched a new initiative to reduce in-flight waste called Project Green.

The country’s flag carrier airline has signed an agreement with the Ministry for Primary Industries and LSG Sky Chefs to allow unopened snacks to be re-used across flights.

This is a world-first scheme which has the potential to prevent over 150 tonnes of waste from ending up in landfill annually. Due to biosecurity regulations, any unopened food left over from international flights has previously been sent to the landfill. Now, though, Air New Zealand is able to reuse sealed and untouched products on future flights because of the reclassification of bio-security on these products.

The programme has taken over 18 months to bring to fruition but it has managed to achieve two significant results: not only are fewer items being sent to landfill but waste disposal costs have also significantly gone down.

Since Air New Zealand first started implementing the project across its international fleet, over 13 tonnes of waste have been diverted away from landfill. This includes 266,000 plastic cups, sugar packets and 3.5 tonnes of bottled water. It is estimated that the global industry of in-flight waste generates over 5.2 million tonnes, a figure which is rising year on year. The hope is that with these initiatives the global air travel industry can start minimising their environmental impact.

Air New Zealand’s Head of Operational Delivery, Alan Gaskin, commented that the early signs are very positive.

“We’ve spent considerable time auditing our in-flight waste to gain a better understanding of how we can improve our handling processes… We’re incredibly encouraged by the early data we’re seeing,” he said. 

It is hoped that in the future more airlines will work with border regulators to minimise waste and reduce cabin leftovers, all without compromising quarantine controls on both international and domestic flights.