What’s your favorite thing to do before boarding a flight? Sipping a hot mocha is sure to be one of the top favorites- a hot drink to calm your nerves especially if you’ve been shuttling between cities. Once you take the last sip, you unthinkingly chuck the paper cup in the trash can. It’s just one cup but did you know that it adds to the burgeoning waste that is now a major problem at airports? Leftover food and packaging, cola cans, plastic water bottles, coffee cups, candy wrappers, old batteries and more fill the bins at the airports, ready to be disposed in the landfills and add to the tons of toxic waste already piled up.

A few years ago, the Natural Resources Defense Council carried out a study on airport waste and the findings are relevant today as they were then. An important finding revealed that 75 percent of airport waste is recyclable but only 20 percent made it to recycling units. The rest of it usually ends up as toxic waste in landfills and incinerators- major environment killers. With millions of passengers visiting airports every day, airport waste has become a serious menace and many airport authorities are stepping up to try and find sustainable solutions to recycle these waste products.

How American Airports Are Reducing, Reusing And Recycling

After years of neglect, the spotlight is finally on finding solutions to deal with the problem of waste in airports across the country. Major airports are developing innovative solutions to make airports more eco-friendly. Here are the green initiatives taken by some of them.

Spotlight On Airport Waste – What Are We Doing To Recycle It?

Charlotte Douglas International Airport, North Carolina

The sixth busiest airport in the world has an efficient sustainability program that handles tons of waste that passengers get rid of every day. Recycling bins are placed at strategic locations around the airport. Watch the video of this airport’s recycling center and how waste is separated and recycled. This airport has also developed an innovative vermin composting method that uses earthworms to eat up waste products, reports Green Plus. These initiatives will save the airport $1 million in waste disposal costs over the next five years, the report adds.

Airports In New York And New Jersey

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has recycling programs in the airports located in the two states. Tons of cardboard, cans, glass bottles and paper are recycled every years, the official website informs. The focus is also on recycling in the passenger terminals. JetBlue Airlines and John F. Kennedy Airport are working together to reduce waste by introducing small and simple boarding passes and not using paper tickets, reports the Air Transport Action Group.

O’hare International Airport, Chicago

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) has an effective waste management program that is single stream- using one collection bin for all recyclable items that makes it simple and convenient. Battery recycling, centers to collect liquids like beverages, shampoo, body lotion etc. before passengers board the plane, water refilling points and composting are some of the environment-friendly initiatives taken by the airport authority.

Read online about what other airports are doing to reduce waste in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) document.

What You Can Do To Reduce Airport Waste

Each traveler generates 1.3 pounds of waste per flight, says a 2010 study by Green America. Imagine the waste generated by millions of travelers that go through America’s airports each day. If you’re a frequent air traveler, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce the waste that’s generated and also recycle rather than throw away any items. In a New York Times article, Oakland resident Beth Terry says she carries her own bamboo utensils, cloth napkins and glass straw to lessen plastic trash in airports. A U.S. News article lists ways you can cut back on waste- packing your own food and bringing reusable bottles, bags and utensils are some steps you can take.

In case you need to dispose objects like batteries, make sure there is a battery recycling bin as the chemicals contained in batteries can be hazardous to people and the environment if not disposed properly. Recycling company SIMS Metal Management has recycling units all over the country where you can sell your old batteries or any other metal scraps like aluminum cans if you can’t recycle them at the airport.

Think before you throw away. Each step you take to reduce waste when you travel can make our airports cleaner and greener. It may be a single cup or straw- make sure you recycle it before catching your flight.