In-flight Recycling, Please Do Whatever You Can

Airline Companies, please do more

Delta, Virgin, Southwest Top Airline Recycling Report Card

Although the U.S. airline industry generates more than 880 million tons of waste annually, only a small percentage is recycled, according to a new report. Delta, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Southwest topped the ranking, while United and US Airways received the worst grades, according to the recycling report card.

The report, “What Goes Up Must Go Down: The Sorry State of Recycling in the Airline Industry” from Green America’s consumer watchdog Web site ResponsibleShopper.org, ranks 11 airlines based on their recycling programs in five areas. The report reveals there is room for significant improvement in the industry with nearly 500 million pounds of waste that could be recycled each year, of which 250 million pounds is generated in-flight.

No airline received higher than a B- grade overall.

A key finding shows that nearly 75 percent of in-flight generated waste is recyclable but only 20 percent is recycled.

The ranking evaluates airlines in five areas: variety in waste recycled, future in-flight recycling plans, size of in-flight recycling program, education/encouragement of employees in onboard recycling programs, and other in-flight sustainability initiatives.

Other findings show that no airline recycles all the major recyclables — aluminum cans, glass, plastic, and paper — and none of the airlines are working with manufacturers to reduce packaging in snacks and meals. In addition, no airline has a comprehensive program for minimizing or composting food waste or waste from snack packages, or reports on their progress in their recycling goals.

However, the report finds that a few airlines are making strides in their recycling efforts. As an example, British Airlines has set a goal of sending zero waste to landfills in the UK by 2010. Virgin America has eliminated in-flight magazines to prevent waste, and has an in-flight green team that works to increase sustainability awareness.

Other airlines are also stepping up their efforts. As examples, Delta recycles aluminum cans, plastic bottles, plastic trays, beverage cups, newspapers, and magazines on flights landing at many of the nation’s major airports, and Southwest’s on-ground recycling includes batteries, electronics, and used oil, although its in-flight recycling is limited. Southwest announced a co-mingled recycling program last October.

American Airlines, which got a D grade for recycling, announced last year that it would begin recycling wine corks to prevent them from ending up in landfills.

Source:  EL Daily (Environment Leader Daily), Feb 22, 2010

Martha says, “I want to do an Oprah thing.  She recently started a “no text while driving” campaign, asking people to sign a statement pledging they will no longer text behind the wheel.  I think that’s a very good thing, and I support her 100% . Chip is a really bad driver, and an even worse ‘text-er” (fat fingers).  Combine the two, and it’s a train wreck!

Anyway, I want all airline passengers to become more environmentally aware. We can make a difference.  Here are a few suggestions (from someone who knows a thing or two about suggestions):

1.  Recycle before boarding the plane.  I cannot tell you how many passengers will walk on an airplane, and without even saying hello, they hand the flight attendant their trash including coffee & drink cups, empty food containers & bags, newspapers, a dead cat (okay I made up the dead cat), and all sorts of ‘recyclable’ items that could have been left at the other end of the jetway in airport Recyclable containers located throughout the terminal.  Come on people!  You’re coming on the airplane WITH trash. Where else do you carry trash to the inside?

2.  Your flight crew (at least on my airline) nearly always offers coffee and water refills on longer flights. PLease re-use your first styrofoam cup and plastic glass for re-use. Do not use a new cup each and every time. There you are, sitting there with two or three used coffee cups stuffed into your seatpocket, and when I get to your row, you expect a new one. I want to head bump you in the forehead really hard (since I don’t have any free hands to slap you silly).  Do your part, use a cup more than once.

3.  Don’t be a “litter-pig” throwing everything on the floor and inside the seatpockets. Be neat and considerate about it.  Even if my airline doesn’t recycle, I try to pack (or stack) throw away items like plastic glasses, and separate cans hoping that someone down the line will recycle something.  I do know that some of our stations do recycle cans, and I applaud them.  But, even if the station is without a recycling program, maybe some of the employees do! So, I try to make it easier for them by always stacking cups and separating cans.  It’s the right thing to do.

4.  Do not use PLASTIC BAGS ever!  Plastic bags are killers.

5.  Think!  There are more than 8,000 flights in the U.S. skies every day.  Let’s just say that an airplane averages 130 passengers, each one using 3 plastic/styrofoam cups per flight.  That’s 1,040,000 plastic and styrofoam cups dumped into our environment every day.  In only one years time, we’re looking at a grand total of 379,600,000 That’s a lot of damage.  It’s irresponsible and completely unnecessary. Re-use your cup, it’s that simple!

We can do better.  Will you please do your part?  And sign the following pleadge?  Sign it right now using a Sharpie, leaving the signature on your computer screen as a reminder.”

I, ___________________________ promise to re-use, re-cycle, and re-think ways of reducing my negative impact on the environment when traveling by air.   Date___/___/___

It's all we've got