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creative recycling brings cost savings
By Harriet Baskas, special for USA TODAY
A recent Scientific American story noted that, with the help of airlines, the 30 largest airports in the country create “enough waste to equal the trash produced by cities the size of Miami or Minneapolis.” That sounds pretty dire, but in the days before airports embraced the”‘reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra and before airlines adopted their current penny-pinching mode, it was worse.
Today, it’s a much different story. Most airports at least have recycling stations in the terminals ?????? ??. And in-flight recycling programs are steadily taking hold. It’s all about saving the earth, of course, but airlines and airports are also discovering that creative recycling can save lots of dough paul smith ??.
Trash to trash ???? ???; coffee to compost
The superstars of airport recycling are Portland International and Seattle-Tacoma International airports. Portland offers unique pre-security checkpoint pouring stations that encourage travelers to discard their liquids and keep the bottles to fill at water fountains on the secure side. This keeps liquids and plastic bottles out of the garbage and reduces trips to the landfill.
At the Seattle airport, unsold food from concessionaires is sent to area food banks while organic waste, including tons of coffee grounds of course, gets turned into compost. To encourage airlines do their part, the airport recently purchased a dozen computer-monitored compactors (six for recyclable trash, six for garbage) and placed them within easy reach of airplane cleaning crews. As added incentive ???? ???, airlines that separate out their recyclables are promised credits towards their airport bills.
Other airports are gaining savings from unusual recycling efforts as well. In 2008, one of its busiest construction years ever, Vancouver International Airport was able to recycle or re-use 99% of it construction waste. That includes concrete from aprons and taxiways that was removed, ground up and re-used for a road base and other projects.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport collects spent aircraft de-icing fluid up to a million gallons a year and has it hauled off-airport to be distilled and returned to 99.9% pure propylene glycol that can be used in other products. “In addition to the significant environmental benefits of this program,” says DTW’s Michael Conway, “the airport has saved millions of dollars over the years in disposal costs.”
And at Hartsfield- Jackson Atlanta International Airport, instead of recycling bins, passengers are asked to put trash in all-purpose, automatic-compacting garbage bins scattered around the airport. The compacted waste gets sorted and recycled off-airport in a program officials say should reduce the trash the airport sends to the landfills by 70%.
Creative uses of airport accessories
When McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas upgraded its security checkpoint equipment in 2005, it was left with 23 surplus walk-through metal detectors, or magnetometers ??? ???. Instead of discarding the machines ????? ????, or putting them up for sale on eBay, the airport gave them to the local school district, which was looking for metal detectors to use at dances and sporting events. “It was a win-win scenario,” says Rosemary A. Vassiliadis, Deputy Director of the Clark County Department of Aviation, “The schools received something useful and the airport was no longer obligated to pay to store this equipment or ship it off to be trashed.”
A 2008 terminal improvement program at California’s Oakland International Airport included the replacement of 6,000 old-style chairs; the kind that are joined together in sets of three, four or five. Before calling in a recycling company to salvage the chairs’ metal, the airport offered free chairs to any local non-profit that would pick them up. Now many of the Boys Girls Clubs of Oakland sport airport seating.
And in a simple but creatively symbiotic arrangement, Jacksonville International Airport is working with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on a project to turn tree clippings into food. The zoo was looking for a reliable year-round source of fresh “browse,” the natural vegetation eaten by many of the zoo’s large mammals. The grounds around the airport have browse-worthy trees and shrubs that could do with some regular clipping. Now, browse harvested at the airport in the morning becomes dinner for giraffe, elephants and great apes at the zoo.
What about the airlines?
Horizon Airlines has had a recycling program in place since the 1980s and now recycles 70% of the waste generated on its aircraft. Continental Airlines stepped up its recycling program over the past two years and, along with many other major carriers, now separates recyclables, including cans, bottles and newspapers, on airplanes and participates in recycling programs at some airports it serves.
Delta Air Lines, which also has an in-flight recycling program, is currently the only airline recycling airplane carpet through Mohawk Group’s ReCover program, which turns old carpets into new carpets and other products. “In just a few years ???? ??,” says David Sandiford, Mohawk’s manager of aviation sales ???? ?????, “Delta has recycled the equivalent of more than 22 acres of carpet.”
A well-timed phone call also created an opportunity for Delta to recycle worn seat covers, blankets and curtains from Delta planes and all those Northwest planes that were re-decorated after the airlines merged.
Jennifer Otenti, Delta’s project manager for environmental health, says she got a phone last fall from the airline’s reclamation department asking if there was a way to recycle all the old fabric seat covers instead of sending them to landfill ?????? ????. Within a few days, Otenti got a call from Matt Mahler of Tierra Ideas in North Carolina. He was wondering if the airline had any old airplane seat covers they’d like to get rid of so he could recycle them into messenger bags and other travel accessories.
They did. Now, says Mahler, “Delta donates and launders the old seat covers. Tierra Ideas has them shipped to our shop, we separate them by pattern (frequent fliers will definitely recognize the different Northwest and Delta patterns) and sew the fabric into the interior and exterior of our messenger bags, laptop carrying cases and other travel accessories.”
So far, Delta has donated about 5,873 pounds of fabric from an estimated 20,000 seat covers. “To put this into perspective,” says Delta Air Lines’ Otenti, “We have donated enough fabric to cover 92 of Delta’s 767-300ER aircraft.”
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