Airline industry could save millions by recycling

According to the results of a study released today by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the airline industry throws away enough recyclables each year to pay for a fleet of airliners. To conduct the study, NRDC looked at 30 airports around the country. In addition to highlighting waste, the study holds up several positive examples, such as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which realized $180,000 in savings last year from recycling efforts, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), which has cut costs by $15,000 a month. NRDC says these savings are often achieved through simple changes, like centralizing waste collection and implementing better contracting strategies.

According to NRDC, the airline industry discarded 9,000 tons of plastic in 2004, and enough newspapers and magazines to bury a football field more than 230 feet deep. Nationwide, U.S. airports generated 425,000 tons of waste in 2004 – a figure NRDC expects to increase nearly 45 percent by 2015. Each passenger today leaves behind 1.3 pounds of trash, the researchers found. Seventy five percent of this waste is recyclable or compostable. Yet the study revealed that the industry-wide recycling rate is 20 percent or less – one third less than the U.S. average as a whole.

"Airlines in the U.S. throw away enough aluminum cans every year to build 58 new 747s. It's the same story with paper and plastic," said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a Senior Scientist at NRDC. "Along with a huge amount of recyclable waste, the industry is throwing away a significant amount of money. And it's not just dollars. These are resources that don't need to be mined, logged or drilled. And by avoiding all that, you save a lot of energy and avoid a lot of emissions."

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