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Airline Trash Landings

Posted in Policies by Devin Maeztri on October 28th, 2008

The section below is republished with permission from the Going Solar Transport Newsletter #82, 21 October 2008, compiled by Stephen Ingrouille. Going Solar newsletter provides an excellent commentary on local sustainable transport issues in Melbourne.

“Years after recycling became second nature at home, the aviation industry is taking the first steps to introduce recycling on flights and in airports. These early moves – including a Virgin Blue trial of in-flight recycling and the installation of recycling bins at Sydney Airport – follow a report that found American airlines throw out enough aluminium cans every year to build 58 new 747 jets.

“The Trash Landings report, by the Natural Resources Defence Council, also found US airlines disposed of 9000 tonnes of plastic a year, and enough newspapers and magazines to fill a football field more than 70 metres deep. About 600 grams of rubbish is left behind by each US passenger, and despite three-quarters of it being recyclable or compostible, most ends up in landfill.

“Australian airlines and airports have been slow to embrace recycling as they grapple with the quarantine, security and logistics issues that complicate aviation waste management. Over the past year, Virgin Blue has assessed ways to cut inflight waste, including minimising packaging and has conducted a trial in which it trained cabin crew to separate recyclable waste from food scraps and other matter while collecting passengers’ rubbish before landing. Qantas recycles newspapers read on board – nearly 500 tonnes a year in Sydney and Melbourne – & glass & plastic bottles, papers & cans are recycled in Qantas Club lounges.

“Mike Nicholls, a RMIT University student who is working with Virgin Blue on inflight recycling, said the success of the project depended on making facilities available at airports to dispose of waste. ‘The potential for it is huge but it’s almost non-existent in Australia, he said. Sydney Airport has enabled stores and food outlets in the international terminal to recycle waste for several years. But recycling bins or public fuse were introduced only this year. Quarantine requirements mean all waste from incoming flights or generated by the public in the ‘air side section of the terminal is dumped in landfill after being sterilised at high temperature. No facilities exist at Sydney for the recycling of inflight waste, but talks have been held with airlines.” Ref: Sherrill Nixon, SMH, 6/10/08

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