“It does take communication, collaboration and education,”
said Portland’s Sorensen. “The two perceived barriers to recycling onboard are time constraint and space,” she noted.
“You’re collecting the trash anyway, it’s just a matter of gathering it differently.”
At the Portland airport, Sorensen is tailoring the recycling
program for each airline. She does waste sorts of targeted
flights to determine how much of the trash could be recycled,
and then shares that information with the airline. Delta, she
said, has gone from zero to 34 percent recycling since this
corporate-sponsored program started up.
Creative solutions abound. When international flights arrive in Portland, the German newspapers are redistributed to
local high schools and colleges for students to peruse. At the
airport’s concessions, Sorensen hands out biodegradable bags
to divert French fries and pizza crust from the landfill. She always tries to find the “mover and shaker” at the restaurants
who is interested in doing this.
Back in Denver, Barrilleaux complained that people don’t
read signs so successful recycling is more about good habits.
“You should make it part of the routine,” she said.
I put a recycle bin in a dispatch room that had no trash
bin. The bin had a handmade sign on it that read: “No Trash,
Recycling Only, Plastic Bottles and Aluminum Cans.” After
a four-month effort, I’m noticing a shift among colleagues.
HOW FAST CAN WE CHANGE?
In December 2006, the Natural Resources Defense
Council reported startling findings from a year-
long study of how U.S. airports and airlines dis-
pose of waste.
here are some highlights:
• Nearly 90 percent of the waste generated at a typical
airport is from airline waste, retail and restaurant tenants at airports, yet many airports fail to target these
waste creators. Funds for recycling programs are primarily focused on airport public areas, where only
about 12 percent of the airport’s waste is generated.
• In 2004, airlines discarded 9,000 tons of plastic and
enough newspapers and magazines to fill a football
field to a depth of more than 230 feet.
• If aluminum cans are just one percent of the waste
generated at airports and airlines, achieving a 25-per-
cent recycling level of this material would result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 4,378 tons annually—that equates to a removal of 3,243 cars from
• eight airports reporting the highest recycling rates
(more than 10 percent) have hired a recycling coordinator and have worked toward airplane waste recycling—a necessary component since airplanes generate nearly half the waste at airports.
They no longer look at me as if I’ve lost my mind as I unload
my used dispatch releases and empty water bottles into the
recycling bins inside the terminal. My first officers are participating and my flight attendants are intrigued. The nine bins I
manage are filling up faster than ever before. I feel a whole lot
better these days when I come to work because I can continue
to recycle as aggressively as I do at home.
“We’re such a wasteful society,” said Delta’s Susan Powell.
“It’s just a learning curve. Ya’ll can do this. It’s just so easy.” ✈
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Linda Berlin (WAI #10243) flies the Dash- 8 for Mesa Airlines, based
in Denver, Colorado. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.