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Recycling comes on board at ABIA

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Recently, officials at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport found themselves concerned with what happens to all the in-flight waste that ends up at Austin’s airport. Whose responsibility is it to regulate its disposal? “The challenge is when you fly into Austin, there are no controls (in flight),” said Kane Carpenter, the environmental manager with the airport, at the most recent meeting of the Zero Waste Advisory Commission. Sometimes, he explained, airlines claim that they are taking the trash to their next stop to recycle. Austin is trying to confirm that is the case. Although ABIA is working to confirm the waste diversion practices for all airlines, according to Carpenter many airlines are already complying with Austin’s wish to regulate their waste diversion practices when they land at the airport. Those who are on board include United, American Airlines, Delta and Southwest. Carpenter explained that for willing participants, the airport conducted a waste sort where they found that 20 percent of the material that was recycled was actually trash. The study was based on weight. Commissioner Joshua Blaine said, “That’s way better than the waste analysis studies we’ve done here,” meaning at the city of Austin. Commissioner Kaiba White, however, saw the results differently. “I suspect that this is not a good news story,” she said. According to her, since the study was based on weight, it could have failed to take volume into account, items like plastic forks, spoons and bottles that don’t weigh much but are generated in massive volumes and could be incorrectly disposed of. Similarly, according to her, when you’re on board a flight, there is no efficient way to recycle contaminated plastic. Nevertheless, Carpenter explained that environmentally considerate waste diversion is a nationwide initiative and that he is working with corporate environmental managers in both airports and airlines around the country to focus on waste diversion from the planes.

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