Last week I hopped a flight to Dallas on US Airways. Overall the experience was fine, with flights arriving on time and in-flight personnel being extremely friendly. However, sitting in row 17 and watching the trash collection process head towards me, I was a bit disturbed that clearly marked recyclable US Airway cups, soda cans and water bottles were being dumped in with every other form of trash. With over 3,100 flights a day (Flights, n.d.) delivering an estimated 55 million passengers a year (Statistics, n.d.), one has to wonder how many of those recycled cups actually make it to the recycling plant.
US Airways’ 2011 Annual Report discusses their recycling programs but emphasizes recycling at their physical locations. When it comes to in-flight recycling, they promote the recycling of wire and seats from planes as well as the 15,000 pounds of SkyMall catalogs recycled. Their 2011 report clearly tipped toe around the lack of in-flight recycling, but did promise to make improvements that would lead to a 23% reduction in in-flight landfill-bound waste. So back to the question of how many bottles and cans could be recycled. US Airways estimated in 2011 that “there are more than 27 million cans and plastic water bottles that can be recycled through the new program annually”. However, based upon what I saw in 2013, the landfill-bound recyclable materials has not been reduced anywhere near the the 23% they expected (Annual Report, 2011, p.25).
Annual Report. (2011). Retrieved October 19, 2013 from http://www.usairways.com/pv_obj_cache/pv_obj_id_5583896F0D07E5828552F99D1EC5709C94A25100/filename/usairways_env_study_2012.pdf
Flights. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2013 from http://www.usairways.com/en-US/aboutus/pressroom/welcome.html
Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2013 from http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/press_releases/bts016_13