Seattle-Tacoma International steps up recycling efforts with airlines to reduce landfill waste
Horizon Air workers using the recycling compactor (photo: Marlys St. Laurent/Port of Seattle)
Thu 22 Apr 2010 – A new off-aircraft centralized recycling system has started operating at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that is aimed at reducing waste sent to landfills, improve ramp safety, decrease air emissions and save more than $250,000 each year. Six pairs of large capacity compactors have been installed at convenient locations for all airlines serving the airport to access. Computer monitoring provides alerts when they are full, thus reducing the amount of pick-up trips by 75 percent. The new programme includes financial incentives encouraging airlines to recycle. The Port of Seattle, which is responsible for the shipping port as well as the airport, has just published its annual environmental report for 2009-2010.
Under the new recycling programme each airline has a key card to access the system, which records how much is deposited in separate compactors designated for waste or recycling. Using the compactors is free of charge, plus credits are given for the ratio of recycling versus waste to reduce annual bills.
Currently, 90% of aircraft operators at the airport are participating in the programme. Since it started in March, the programme has already seen an additional 12 tons of recycled materials picked up, equal to 9% of the airport’s total airfield waste.
Previously, the airlines coordinated their own pick-ups. The new system has resulted in 89 fewer pick-ups per month and it is hoped in time to reduce the number to as few as one or two per month. Less pick-ups also means fewer vehicles on the ramp, thus increasing safety, reducing air emissions and saving money.
“Our goal is to recycle 50% of our waste by 2014,” said Sea-Tac’s Director of Planning and Environmental Programs, Elizabeth Leavitt. “This will take us another major step towards that effort.”
Two of the major carriers at the airport, Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines, are participating in the programme.
“These new compactors not only help make recycling easier, they also help us to track our progress in this effort,” said Jacqueline Drumheller, Environmental Projects Manager for the two airlines. “Horizon began its recycling programme right here at Sea-Tac in the mid-1980s, and the Port of Seattle has been a close partner in our commitment to reduce waste as much as possible.”
In Washington State, about 75% of Horizon Air’s food and beverage in-flight waste is recycled and the airline estimates 300 tons of waste is saved from landfills each year.
According the Port of Seattle’s Environmental Annual Report 2009-2010 just published, by recycling 23% of its waste per year, it has saved $170,000 annually in landfill fees, which is expected to rise to $250,000 if the 50% recycling target is achieved.
Last year, the airport – self-dubbed the Green Gateway – recycled more than 1,300 tons of material, including nearly 900 tons of mixed paper, cardboard, aluminium cans and plastic.
The Port of Seattle ran a number of sustainability events last week to coincide with Earth Day.