The cups aren’t the real problem – why Air NZ should be bolder about coffee

In light of Air New Zealand’s decision to trial reusable coffee cups on domestic flights, Fairtrade ANZ CEO Senthil Nathan has penned an article for The Post arguing that the coffee, not the cup, is the key sustainability challenge to address. 

We have included below an abridged version of Senthil’s thoughts. The full article is available to read in The Post. 

Air New Zealand is trialing reusable cups to replace single-use plastic cups on its domestic flights. They are not alone. 

Other airlines are flying free of plastics, or at least trying not to generate any landfill waste. As an attempt to care for the environment, trying not to dump rubbish all over it is probably the least that carbon-emitting airlines can do. Good on them. But they can be bolder. 

The critical sustainability issue is not the cup. It is the coffee. 

The 2030 Agenda mentions “poverty” 28 times. “Plastic” is mentioned not even once. Even “pollution” appears less frequently than “decent work” or “labour”. 

The focus of sustainability, therefore, must more frequently fall on tackling poverty. In Air New Zealand’s case, it can start by looking at the coffee in the cup. 

A tiny surplus makes a vast difference for a person living below USD$2.15 per day. A fair price ensures human dignity. 

I believe Air New Zealand passengers would welcome a Fairtrade coffee in that reusable cup, knowing they are helping vulnerable producer communities and fighting child labour too. 

The cup is easy to change. Supporting the people who get the coffee to the cup is the real challenge. Air New Zealand can stand out by doing both. 

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