Air New Zealand (Air NZ) announced an exciting step towards minimising their environmental impacts last month with the news that they are trailing reusable plastic cups on domestic flights.

Air NZ are one of the many companies that have tried to take advantage of ‘green’ claiming plastic alternatives in the last few years. Using around 9 million disposable cups a year, it was hoped that the transition to single use compostable cups would be an environmental win. However, the environmental challenges of these alternatives are becoming more widely known.

Although bio-based compostable cups reduce the amount of virgin fossil-based plastic in use, the reality is that their production and disposal still cause environmental harm. Bio-based products require lots of land, water, and energy to produce. The use fertilizers and agrichemicals through production also cause risk of pollution. What’s more, although branded as ‘compostable’, the right conditions are needed for the materials to properly break down post use. Commercial composting facilities are limited in Aotearoa New Zealand and don’t typically accept compostable plastics. On top of this, the infrastructure isn’t in place to recover compostable plastics even if they did.

Concerns over the true environmental impact of Air NZ’s transition to compostable cups were raised and we are very happy to see that these concerns have been heard. November ‘23 saw the transition to reusable cups in Air NZ lounges, and in March ’24 it was announced that reusable plastics cups were trialed on six domestic flights!

One of the key advantages of reusable plastic cups is their longevity and durability. Unlike single-use alternatives, which are disposed of after a single use, reusable cups can withstand multiple wash cycles and maintain their quality over time. This not only reduces the volume of waste generated but also minimizes the resources required for production, transportation, and disposal. Tino Pai, Air NZ!

To learn more about Air NZ’s journey, follow the links below:

Are the Air NZ compostable cups as ‘green’ as they claim to be? – Consumer NZ

Moving away from single use cups in our lounges – Air New Zealand

Will these cups replace Air NZ’s 9 million single-use coffee cups? - Stuff

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