By Roman Travers, RadioLIVE broadcaster.
OPINION: In a world where we have finally woken up to ubiquitous smell of slowly decaying plastic, our national airline appears to have its head firmly wedged between two of its economy class seats.
Over the weekend, I flew with Air New Zealand to and from Sydney and for whatever reason, I became acutely aware of the insurmountable sea of plastic contained within the aircraft as we hurtled across the Tasman Sea; which is also at sea with plastic.
There are two issues here for me. Why is it that we feel that we need to eat and drink incessantly on a flight that by international standards is equivalent to catching a bus from Lambton Quay to Petone?
The second and more pressing issue is in overwhelming amount of plastic that is used on each and every flight, both domestic and international – regardless of the airline.
Blankets and cutlery still come wrapped in wee plastic bags destined for the insides of the oceans sea life.
As soon as you’re seated, you are confronted with your headphones, contained in a plastic bag. If you haven’t dressed in preparation for air conditioning levels set to replicate Antarctica, then you’ll probably reach for a blanket and pillow from the overhead locker – also often wrapped in plastic.
Over the next few hours, you’re confronted with a plethora of food portions and utensils that are all wrapped in plastic. Your cold drink receptacle will also be made from single use plastic.
As I sat through the flight, consuming more and more stuff that I really didn’t need and adding to the waste trolley as it rolled up and down the aisle like the collection plate at a Catholic mass; I began to feel more and more ashamed of myself and Air New Zealand.
I got in touch with our award-winning national carrier to find that just how green their plastic policies are. Air New Zealand are in fact very aware of the impact they are making in the world of single use, one touch ridiculous plastic and launched a fabulous new plan late in 2017.
Air New Zealand’s ‘Project Green’ took flight in August 2017 has seen more than 132 tonnes of inflight waste diverted from landfill in its first nine months – the equivalent weight of three of the airline’s A320 aircraft.
The project has seen 40 inflight products, previously sent to landfill due to biosecurity controls, being reclassified so these can be reused on future flights, if they are removed from aircraft sealed and untouched.
Air New Zealand Head of Sustainability Lisa Daniell says that tracking to date shows more than nine million individual items have been recovered for reuse or recycling rather than going to landfill. This includes more than one million plastic cups, sugar sticks, paper cups and paper cup lids.
And yet the headphones, blankets and cutlery still come wrapped in wee plastic bags destined for the insides of the ocean's sea life.
If you want to look like you’re one of the good guys in life, stand as close as you can to them and do what they do. Air New Zealand have perfected this charade of emulation by showing you cute images of their cabin crew standing in our national parks, overseeing the release of our endangered birds.
Your cold drink receptacle will also be made from single use plastic.
Whilst I admire the efforts made by our national airline to reduce their impact on the environment, there are many air miles to fly yet before you can stand up and claim that you are a business that is genuinely focused on environmental matters.
Airlines of all sizes and descriptions may well argue that they do what they do because you and I demand it. We demand to be fed and watered every few hours with questionably exciting food that some claim was inspired by award winning chefs.
Perhaps you and I are to blame for this ubiquitous supply and consumption of superfluous plastic within the airlines.
I reckon I could survive on most flights with a lot less of it and would do so happily if it meant helping Air New Zealand to become as green as possible.
Our national airline continually wins International Airline of The Year awards. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see them set an example to other airlines and win one that recognises them for being at the cutting edge of conservation?
Roman Travers is a broadcaster for RadioLIVE.