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Rifling through Rubbish Nets International Awards for Christchurch Airport

  • 2023-08-29

Leading Hand Coso Stretch with Christchurch Airport cheif executive Justin Watson

Christchurch Airport’s new approach to minimizing waste and its work mentoring other airports to become more sustainable has netted it two international awards. 


The Airports Council International Asia-Pacific awarded Christchurch Airport the ‘Green Airports Recognition 2023’ and the ‘Airport Carbon Accreditation - Mentor’.


The airport’s created a new waste sortation room where a team of four Enviro NZ employees manually go through all of the general waste (red bins) collected in the terminal.


Their goal? To help lift the amount of waste Christchurch Airport diverts from landfill to 80%.


The Green Airports Recognition judging panel said the project sets the standard for how airports can bring circularity to life.


“Christchurch Airport’s commitment to improving resource diversion from landfill into circular economies from 45% to 80% is highly impressive. An excellent example for other airports to learn from when considering their waste management strategy and approach to single-use plastic elimination.”


The airport’s Sustainable Transition Leader Claire Waghorn says the room is the culmination of more than a year’s hard mahi.

“We began by holding New Zealand’s one of NZ’s most comprehensive waste audits – hand sorting 1,000 kilos of waste over three days so we could gather data to understand our waste streams.”


That audit revealed the airport’s waste diversion rate was sitting at just over 42%.


Waste minimisation business, Sustainably, oversaw the project. Its Services Director Aimy East says most businesses don’t weigh their rubbish.


“Of those who do weigh their rubbish a ‘good’ diversion rate is around 30% so the fact an airport that welcomes millions of people every year was sitting at 42% was remarkable.”


Claire Waghorn says together with Sustainably and Enviro NZ, the airport team came up with a strategy to lift the diversion rate even higher.


“The audit showed us that by going through the red bins and ensuring we captured things that could be reused or recycled (including organics and liquid waste) we would be able to lift the rate as high as 80%.”


Coso Stretch at work


“We began by commissioning a custom-designed sorting table that separates and collects liquid waste when bags of rubbish are tipped onto it. We then worked with Enviro NZ to design the sortation room and recruit our four sorters.”


Enviro NZ’s Upper South Island Regional Manager Jacob Stapleton says the sorters go through the rubbish bag by bag and pull out anything that can be re-used, composted or recycled.


“The crew is passionate about the job and have already made some exciting discoveries. The terminal is cleaned 24/7 so the waste is relatively fresh. Our wider team are proud to work with like-minded partners to reduce waste and maximise recycling.”


Claire Waghorn says they’re already making a major difference with the organics now being made into soils that are used in the city’s gardens.


“We also discovered that a significant amount of clothing, shoes and books are thrown away in the check-in terminal – mainly from passengers whose baggage is overweight. We now collect these so they can be reused.”


Claire Waghorn says the approach aligns with the airport’s overall sustainability strategy.


“We focus on measuring our performance. We measure the water and energy the terminal is using in real time to ensure its maximum efficiency and we measure our Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions (including those produced by airlines). If you measure it, you’re able to challenge yourself to do even better.”


“In three months, we’ve lifted our performance from 42% to over 50%. Circularity is all about rethinking of rubbish as a source of resources that can be reused elsewhere. We’re lucky to have a team that’s passionate about this and have no doubt we’ll hit our target of 80% in time,” says Claire Waghorn.

New Zealand
Christchurch Airport
The Trinity Forum 2024, The Moodie Davitt Report, Ho Chi Minh City, Travel, Luxury, IPP Travel Retail
Airport Carbon Accreditation
Airports Innovate, Airports Innovate 2024, Rome Italy, aviation conference
Airports Innovate, Airports Innovate 2024, Rome Italy, aviation conference
Airport Carbon Accreditation
The Trinity Forum 2024, The Moodie Davitt Report, Ho Chi Minh City, Travel, Luxury, IPP Travel Retail