Air Chathams - Sustainable Skies


Article sourced from : ‘Air Chats’ – Air Chathams Inflight Magazine (Autumn 2021 issue)
Author and Photographer: Dan Burt 


It’s great to see Air Chathams, a Whanganui based Airline has made the switch to using our Green Choice compostable food service products as they ramp up their efforts to become more sustainable in their business operations.

With climate change becoming more and more of a concern for all of us, Air Chathams has been ramping up efforts to reduce their environmental impact. They’re making some real progress in making Air Chatham’s flights more sustainable - and the good news is that they’re just getting started.

When most of us think of the airline industry and the environment, we think of long-haul flights and the effects of aviation fuel. But as a short-haul carrier running smaller and relatively cleaner aircraft, Air Chathams realised they could have a far greater chance of reducing their impact on the environment by doing the right thing and getting their house - or in this case their cabins - in order.

Kiwis, and people everywhere, are being reminded to start with little things that will make a big difference, so they challenged their teams to take a good look at what could be done to reduce waste across the airline. Air Chathams is a proud member of the Tourism Sustainability Commitment, and they wanted to put that into action. In New Zealand, the Packaging Forum estimates that 295 million beverage cups (including coffee cups) are used every year, and the vast majority end up in landfill.

With over 100 flights a week, the airline knew they were contributing to that - but how to change it? The inflight cup of coffee or tea is pretty important, so their Customer Product Manager Roy Mackereth and the cabin crew set about finding more sustainable solutions without compromising on their industry-leading inflight experience.

“Our flight times predominately align with the business day,” says Roy, “so the serving of tea and coffee onboard is expected by our passengers, but it was important that we found a way to reduce waste. So we set out to find some solutions and some Kiwi companies that could help us introduce them.”

One such Kiwi company is Superclean, who now supply most of our on-board cleaning products. A family owned and operated business established in 1976, Superclean specialise in environmental and biodegradable products, and because they are based in Whanganui - on one of Air Chatham’s routes – they were able to source and distribute those products across their fleet.


Whanganui based Uni-Pak, provide the Green Choice brand of compostable food services products. Green Choice products do not contain petroleum-based plastics, chemical dyes or inks, and only use plant-based materials in their construction; this means that Green Choice cups are made with paper sourced from managed plantations and coated with a material made from plants, not oil. They offer superior stability, lid fit, and insulation (because, well, the contents are really hot!) but they come from sustainable sources and - just as importantly - they are compostable, so won’t live on in landfill for years to come. In fact, when you’re on board one of the Air Chatham’s flights, the majority of the products you’ll use are now compostable. 


Everything coming off the aircraft is sorted by staff to make sure it ends up in the appropriate recycling or reuse destination.

Air Chatham’s have even sourced special compostable bags that can go straight into a receiving facility at Auckland Airport for collection by Kiwi company Reclaim and then transported to Envirofert’s industrial composting facility in Tuakau.

Envirofert operates one of the largest composting facilities in New Zealand, specializing in superior quality compost and blends for horticultural growers, farmers and landscape professionals located in the central and upper North Island. So what comes out of the Tuakau facility is a fully stabilised compost with high-nutrient and microbiological value - a compost that will end up on orchards, veggie gardens, and pastures.

That is a vast improvement over the mountain of non-biodegradable plastic that was destined for landfill just a few years ago, and it’s thanks to all these companies that Air Chatham’s have been able to make these changes.

But there’s more to come.

“Switching to alternative products hasn’t been easy to us as an airline,” says Roy, “but this is important to us, and it’s important to Kiwis. We’re lucky enough to be in our 36th year of business, and we’re planning for success into the 4th decade of our business, so moving to compostable products now will help ensure the long-term sustainability of not just our business but our planet.”

By focusing on the mainland routes serviced by their Saab 340 aircraft they’ve been able to refine their processes and significantly reduce the waste they are sending to landfill. It’s also led to having further conversations within their team about their sustainability journey and about improvements that can be made to their supply chains.

Air Chathams are taking a long-term view of sustainability.


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