- A New Zealand man with a disability is living his dream as an airport waste technician, combining his passions for planes and the environment.
- Despite his hand-eye coordination issue, he overcame challenges to work at Christchurch Airport and has already made a significant impact.
- The airport's commitment to sustainability has earned it international recognition and awards, with a judging panel praising its waste management strategies.
A New Zealand man is loving his job that combines his two passions. Coso Stretch has always had a passion for planes and has wanted to work around them, but his disability has prevented him from landing a job at an airport until now.
Stretch, sharing a passion for the environment, gets to fulfill his dream in his new job. Half a year into being an airport waste technician, he not only spots recyclables but also catches planes during his spare time.
New recycling operation
Born with a birth deformity that affects his hand-eye coordination, Stretch has recalled that the disability has become a struggle as he has gotten older, according to 1News. However, he did not let that keep him from getting a new job six months ago when Christchurch Airport began a new recycling program.
The operation features a new waste sortation room where a team of four employees from Enviro NZ, a waste management company, manually go through all of the general waste collected in the terminal. From books, clothes, and other things too heavy for a passenger's suitcase, Stretch has seen it all.
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"You can achieve anything"
Showcasing his passion for the environment, he has most notably seen more wooden cutlery as opposed to plastic, which he says has been "really quite good" to discover. But when he is not sorting through airport waste, Stretch photographs airplanes. He explained how the job caters to him and his style to 1News.
"In break time I can do plane spotting, I can just come up here. I've worked on building sites and stuff but because of my disability I'm a little bit too slow for the liking of the bosses.”
"I've been able to stay here for six months and it just shows you that despite having a disability you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it."
Since Stretch has been on the job, his Enviro NZ team has reportedly helped Christchurch Airport reduce waste going to landfills by 50%. Intending to cut waste to landfill to 80%, the airport seems to be right on track.
The airport said its operation has netted it two international awards. This year, the Airports Council International Asia-Pacific gave Christchurch Airport the 'Green Airports Recognition 2023' award and the 'Airport Carbon Accreditation - Mentor' award.
"Christchurch Airport's commitment to improving resource diversion from landfill into circular economies from 45% to 80% is highly impressive," the Green Airports Recognition judging panel said. "An excellent example for other airports to learn from when considering their waste management strategy and approach to single-use plastic elimination."
To gather data about its waste streams, Christchurch Airport's Sustainable Transition Leader Claire Waghorn said the airport had sorted about 2,200 pounds of waste over three days, aligning with New Zealand's most comprehensive waste audits. Although most businesses do not typically weigh their waste, the audit revealed the airport's waste diversion rate was over 40%, which was a stunning result.
"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," Waghorn explained.
As for Stretch, he reportedly hopes to continue his work, promoting the airport's sustainability initiatives by cleaning up one passenger at a time.