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Airlines reusing plastic cutlery

Published: 7:40AM Wednesday May 19, 2010 Source: NZPA/ONE News

Airlines are being reminded about hygiene regulations after it has been revealed many reuse plastic knives and forks.

Air New Zealand and other airlines are reusing plastic cutlery up to 10 times before throwing it away - despite each sealed cutlery package looking new to travellers.

A supplier says Qantas' plastic spoons, forks and knives are being used up to 30 times - a figure disputed by the airline, the New Zealand Herald reports.

The airline says its utensils could be used at least three times, or "quite a few more times", depending on how much it had deteriorated.

Air New Zealand says its plastic utensils, including cutlery, trays, bowls, cups and plates, are sorted by staff for cleaning and reuse following international flights.

Spokesman Mark Street says items used on international services cannot be recycled because of international quarantine and biosecurity laws, so the practice has environmental benefits.

The items are washed by the airline's catering supplier in a commercial dishwasher and have a "lifecycle of around 10 uses," he says.

Items are reused until they are found to be damaged or marked.

Food Safety Authority adviser Penny Tregear says there is nothing to stop businesses reusing disposable cutlery, but it is designed to be disposed of after use.

"Hygiene regulations have specifics about cleaning cutlery at a temperature of 60 degrees and a rinse temperature of 77 degrees," says Tregear.

And the Food Safety Authority say if that is not done there are health risks.

"Potentially you could have some bacterial growth within the crockery utensils," says Tregear.

The airlines are not alone and many hospitals and boarding schools also reuse plastic cutlery.

 What do you think of the reuse of airlines' plastic cutlery? Share your thoughts on the messageboard below.

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  • Middlemoor said on 2010-05-20 @ 00:23 NZDT: Report abusive post

    This is ridiculous. I used to work as a kitchenhand in NZ airline catering. They do not recycle ALL cutlery, only the heavy duty plastic, replacements for metal types. The dishwasher/sterilizers are checked per-shift, every day, with temperature spots to ensure the minumum heat required is standard. These figures are recorded. The cutlery washed and "re-used" is NEVER damaged, or dirty. This is no different from cutlery washed in a restaurant. Poor reporting.

  • dawdy said on 2010-05-19 @ 20:36 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I think that if they aren't reusing the cutlery, it will be bad for the environment. It could be reused if it's still in good condition. Possibly sterilising the dishes could be even worse for the environment, but maybe a more earth friendly strategy could be created to wash these.

  • petehill said on 2010-05-19 @ 17:48 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I agree with Westridge. Is this really news worthy?

  • kittykat0071 said on 2010-05-19 @ 11:42 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Good on the airlines. We live in such a disposable society these days that there is little value placed on looking after things and maintaining them - "just buy another". Of course they wash them properly - it's not different to eating out and using re-washed stainless steel cutlery.

  • winnkiwi said on 2010-05-19 @ 10:51 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Good on Air NZ! Its great that they are recycling things.

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