Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Can We Recycle on the Go?

I finally made it home from my trip to Puerto Rico. And though I had a wonderful time visiting my family and viewing the sights, there were moments throughout my trip that got me thinking about trash, particularly trash that's generated at airports. To my knowledge, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport doesn't have a recycling program. At least, I didn't see a single recycling bin, neither did this man who threw away his newspaper into the trash bin. What a shame, I thought. Can we recycle on the go?

Surely, there are airports that offer recycling. And I do remember seeing recycling bins at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Wouldn't this be a boon to the recycling industry if they expanded their businesses at airports? And how about recycling those aluminum cans and water bottles on airplanes? Although it's perhaps difficult to conceive of a "green" airline, it would be a step in the right direction if airline companies recycled their cans, bottles, and newspapers. I actually thought Delta offered recycling, but I was disappointed when the flight attendant threw away my empty water bottle in the trash. Yep, that's right: I forgot to bring my SIGG travel bottle with me. Ah, my personal guilt trip continues....

Anyway, I did a quick search online and discovered a few airports that offer recycling:
  • San Diego International Airport
  • Salt Lake City Department of Airports

  • Fort Lauderdale International Airport

  • Portland International Airport

  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

The EPA also provides a comprehensive overview on how to initiate a recycling program at "your" airport. Though I commend the EPA for providing this information, how reasonable is it to think an individual could really implement this program on their own? For starters, you would need "senior management support," a "recycling coordinator", a team of "green employees," and a host of materials and supplies. Might this information be better suited for recycling programs that wish to expand their business practices?

In the meantime, I've challenged myself to reduce my garbage footprint when traveling. Based on my recent experience, I suspect this will be a greater challenge than I had initially anticipated.


Anonymous said...

Great topic! I just checked the airports in my area and this is what I found:

Oakland Airport has an extensive recycling program and was one of the first airports to have an airline pillow recycling program. They also recycle food waste. Here is a link: Maybe you could add Oakland to your list.

I couldn't find much information about recycling at San Francisco International Airport. I saw some references to it in some meeting minutes, but it's not really mentioned on the web site. I can't remember if I've seen recycling bins at SFO or not. Next time I go there, I'll be sure and check.


Experimentaholic said...

When I was in grade school (which now is a very long time ago) I started the first recycling program at a school in Philadelphia. It was a success, and going back there more than 15 years later, they have a full recycling program that actually makes money for the school. It will happen when people finally realize that recycling is econmically sensible. Back in the day when I started the program, we had to actually bag the cans and bottles and drive them to the recycling facility. Now there are services that pick up the recycling for the school and splits the profits.

However, I think now that I am a little older that what would be best would be the emphasis on the reduction of waste...the use of reusable cups over plastic ones, the use of reusable plates over plastic disposable ones. Reduce and reuse are the first two of the three R's, and there is a reason for that.

I'm just glad that I was part of the beginning of a movement towards this, and in reality it didn't take much. Just buying a few new trash cans with soda-can size holes cut into them - that's all I really did. And I was 14! I am sure airports could do the same with little effort. I mean, give me a break. If a 14 year old dumb kid could start a recycling program at a school, it wouldn't take much for an airport to enact these changes. They could hire you, Dr. Verges! No one better for the job!

Meghan said...

I was distraught with the lack of recycling at the airports, on the airplanes, and at the condo we stayed at. I thought surely there would be recycling bins at the airports. I mean, I really am just used to seeing them around. We have them at work, they are at most of the major charity events (walks, dinners, etc), they are at outdoor concerts. I kept looking for blue in the airports and I was genuinely worried that they didn't have them. OK, Omaha may be behind the times, but a major airport like Atlanta?! They can afford to have pictures and sculptures in their airport, but they can't afford to try to keep the earth pretty? Ugh!

The airlines could recycle SO easily! Seriously, those plastic cups, the cans, the bottles - all recyclable. They have to transport the trash somewhere anyway - why not just separate it? I mean, really - like 90% of what they give out is recyclable.

And the condo I stayed at - it's definitley higher class than a hotel. I'd have thought they'd have recycling at those places by now.

Honestly, I'm glad to be back in "behind the times" Omaha where I can drop off my recycling at the center, and I can rely on being able to find a bin to toss my recyclables in when I'm at events.


Keith said...

You can add Rio de Janeiro's international airport (GIG) to that list. I have a photo somewhere (need to dig it up) that I snapped in my last trip to Rio of a row of different colored bins at the airport, one for paper, one for aluminum cans, one for plastic, one for glass and another for lixo ("trash"). I might add that Rio's metro system also has them, as do most of the major monuments (such as Cristo Redentor, the statute of Christ with arms outstretched) and parks in the city.

This is a good topic, particularly for a waste/recycling blogger like me. I should have thought to blog on it before! Thanks for getting me thinking about it again...

BTW, very much like the blog!

Keith R