NRDC Scolds Airlines for Poor Recycling Record

Just in time for the busy holiday travel season, the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a new report last week scolding the airline industry for the shocking amount of otherwise recyclable waste it discards every year. The report, entitled "Trash Landings: How Airlines and Airports Can Clean Up Their Recycling Programs," also details creative solutions undertaken by some airlines to boost recycling efforts.

According to the report, the airline industry is throwing out enough aluminum cans each year to build 58 Boeing 747s, along with 9,000 tons of plastic and enough newspapers to fill a football field at a depth of 230 feet. NRDC Allen Hershkowitz says the industry is needlessly tossing such "resources that don’t need to be mined, logged or drilled."

In all, U.S. airports generated 425,000 tons of waste in 2004, a figure NRDC expects to increase by 45 percent over the next decade. While approximately 75 percent of the 1.3 pounds of trash left behind by the typical passenger could be recycled, researchers found the industry’s recycling rate to be an appalling 20 percent at best, which is one-third less than the U.S. average as a whole.

The group would like to see more airlines step up efforts to recycle along the lines of what’s happening at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which saves almost $180,000 annually by recycling everything from cans to coffee grounds. Similar efforts underway at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) have saved as much as $15,000 a month.