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"Report: Airlines recycling very little"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Report: Airlines recycling very little 
Enough cans discarded yearly to build 58 airliners
By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington (DC) Post

In an era when a can of soda or juice is the one thing airlines still hand
out for free, passengers might assume that all those cans end up in some
recycling bin. Eight times out of 10, they don't. 

According to a new report by the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense
Council, the U.S. airline industry discards enough aluminum cans each year
to build 58 Boeing 747 airplanes. While the Environmental Protection Agency
estimates the national recycling rate for municipal waste -- trash from
homes and commercial establishments -- stands at 32 percent, the nation's
airports have an average recycling rate of 17 percent. 

Resources council senior scientist Allen Hershkowitz, who co-wrote the
study, said it found that airports with the highest recycling rates saved
money. The report praises airports in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, for
example, for their environmentally friendly practices. 

The report also cites Oakland International Airport for centralizing waste
handling and recycling contracting, enabling it to negotiate lower waste
management fees. The process has cut one airline's monthly waste-handling
costs from $7,700 to $2,500 and another's from $2,300 to $1,000. 

"Here is a clear opportunity for cost competitiveness and environmental
objectives to marry," Hershkowitz said. "It's almost as if airports would
want to pollute and pay more to do it." 

The resources council study said airline-related waste piles up on a
colossal scale. In 2004, the industry threw away 9,000 tons of plastic and
"enough newspapers and magazines to fill a football field to a depth of more
than 250 feet." 

Tom Zoeller, vice president for regulatory affairs at the American
Association of Airport Executives, said recycling is "one of many competing
priorities" for airports, along with providing adequate security and
handling increased passenger and cargo traffic. 

"With that comes environmental challenges," said Zoeller, who represents
5,000 airport managers and officials across the country. He added that while
he believes "airports will seriously look at the report," it's hard to
construct a nationwide recycling policy because "every airport runs
differently. It's just very complex."

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