National Academies Press: OpenBook

Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices (2018)

Chapter: Chapter 3 - Drivers and Challenges

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Drivers and Challenges." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25254.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Drivers and Challenges." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25254.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Drivers and Challenges." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25254.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Drivers and Challenges." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25254.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Drivers and Challenges." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25254.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Drivers and Challenges." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25254.
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12 The descriptions of the overarching drivers for airport recycling and other waste practices in this chapter illustrate why airports address waste generation and specific waste streams. The challenges airports face as they manage waste provide context for the strategies discussed in Chapter 4. Data used to describe drivers and challenges were compiled from a survey of 35 organizations representing 36 airports. Existing Drivers for Recycling and Other Practices Airports recognize the environmental and financial impacts of the generation of solid waste. When asked why their airports established a waste diversion program, the most common response (31 airports) was to address environmental impacts. The second most common reason cited was to reduce costs (19 airports), and the third most common reason was that it was required at the federal, state, and local levels (14 airports). At the federal level, Section 132(b) of FMRA expanded the definition of airport planning to include “developing a plan for recycling and minimizing the generation of airport solid waste” (Pub. L. No. 112-95). From state to state, requirements related to waste management vary. For example, in the state of Washington, an airport that receives scheduled commercial service is required to provide clearly marked receptacles in its facility for the disposal of at least two of the following materials: aluminum, glass, newspaper, plastic, and tin (Revised Code of Washington, Title 70, Chapter 93, Section 095, Marinas and Airports – Recycling). The state of California requires all businesses to recycle comingled items and organics. For more information about the influence of these requirements, see the San Diego International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Sacramento International Airport case examples in the appendices. Local municipalities may also have waste management requirements pertaining to airports, and if the airport is owned and operated by the local municipality, the airport may also be subject to requirements that apply to city or county facilities. Several of the case examples in the appendices shed more light on this subject. Other drivers included responding to requests from or expectations of employees, food and beverage/retail tenants, airlines, and passengers, or even initiation by an airport’s tenant or service provider. Airport environmental management systems may identify the generation of waste as a significant impact and compel program development. Based on the case example interviews, competition with other airports’ metrics proved to be a very strong driver. Airports and their leadership sometimes gauge their status against the industry in a variety of areas, including sustainability. The surveyed airports expressed interest in the status of other facilities’ programs, progress toward objectives, and specific metrics. C H A P T E R 3 Drivers and Challenges

Drivers and Challenges 13 Existing Challenges to Recycling and Other Practices The survey asked airport representatives to identify program obstacles and challenges to implementing successful and comprehensive waste management programs. These are summarized in the following. Chapter 4 describes effective practices that airports were using to overcome these challenges. Stakeholder Challenges One set of challenges stems from four major stakeholders: passengers, tenants (including concessionaires and airlines), janitorial staff, and airport employees. The airports described factors that limited each group’s bandwidth for participation and competing priorities. In addition, individuals from any of these groups may live in an area served by a waste program that differs from the program at the airport, may have difficulty recognizing the benefits of sustainable waste management, and may not be aware of the connection between their daily activities and the facility’s program or goals. Language challenges may also be present in each group. The TSA represents an additional stakeholder; security restrictions pose challenges to airport waste management. The airports surveyed cited passenger participation in sustainable waste management (specifi- cally, in-terminal recycling) as the most common challenge to programs’ success (20 airports). Airports explained that this may be due to competition for a passenger’s attention, confusing messaging about recycling, and potentially an apathetic attitude among passengers. Concessionaire activities generate a significant volume of waste, estimated by the NRDC to make up 41% of the waste stream at a typical airport (Atkin et al., 2006), which means con- cessionaire involvement has the potential to dictate the level of success an airport’s program can achieve. However, concessionaire compliance was the second most commonly cited chal- lenge (18 airports) to successful waste management. Survey responses ranked concessionaire pre-consumer waste and recyclables, including viable food and compostable food waste, as the third most difficult stream to address, followed by other tenant waste and recyclables. Airports explained that tenants are typically tight on space, face frequent employee turnover, and are focused on their primary activities. Food and beverage concessionaires may also have concerns about any liability associated with donating food. Other challenges associated with tenant operations include leases without recycling require- ments, a lack of awareness when leases do require recycling, complicated sorting requirements, frustration due to contamination, corporate policies of parent companies, and prohibitive or buried costs. Airports also thought that rolling waste and recycling costs into the total lease rate leaves no clear financial incentive to divert waste. As far as food rescue and donation, tenant participation can suffer due to concerns about liability. Airline participation, security restrictions, and costs tied for the third most common response to the survey’s question about challenges (17 airports each). The airports also ranked airline deplaned and operations waste and recyclables as the two most difficult waste streams to address. Airlines and their contractors conduct many waste-generating activities, both during aircraft flights and through supporting activities such as meal preparation, cabin cleaning, and admin- istration. Many domestic airlines have sustainability goals, including specific waste and recycling objectives; however, the logistics of separating materials in flight and maintaining separation for disposal can be complicated. Airlines and their support service providers are focused on timely operations, which are a priority over other tasks such as recycling. Flight crews’ route assign- ments change frequently, taking them to different facilities with different waste programs, so they don’t always know whether recyclables generated on board are included in a program at the destination.

14 Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices The surveyed airports indicated that they do not have control over flight kitchens, airline offices, or other airline areas since these are typically leased. The airlines typically contract independently for support services such as office janitorial services and cabin cleaning activi- ties. According to survey responses, the airlines’ operating agreements and leases do not always require participation in waste diversion programs. Participation could be viewed as out of the scope of airline operations, which could reduce the volume of material that is captured and diverted. The respondent airports indicated that more information about and alignment with airline practices is needed to address waste generated by airline activities. Because airport employees are regularly at the airport, their daily habits form the baseline waste and recycling levels, independent of passenger levels. Employee participation suffers when employees observe materials being mixed during housekeeping or due to rumors that recyclables are being thrown away after collection from offices or work spaces. Airport staff participation also is influenced by a lack of buy-in from management. The servicing of waste and recycling containers by janitorial staff or contractors can be thought of as the interface between waste generation and waste management. As with tenant operations, turnover threatens consistency, creates a training demand, and causes a loss of institutional knowledge. Other challenges associated with janitorial services include contracts without recy- cling requirements and deviations from expected protocol. These challenges lead to additional difficulties with contamination and lost capture. Security regulations, specifically those enforced by the TSA, control the movement of passengers, luggage, airport personnel, materials, and supplies within an airport. Airports described the following challenges related to security: • Transfer of waste and recyclables generated in non-sterile areas (pre-security screening) through the sterile area to reach central collection areas • Installation of liquid collection stations within the security queuing areas • Explosive-resistant containers in the non-sterile areas • Limits to the number of tenant employees granted access to certain areas—for example, aircraft movement or other airside areas where waste and recycling collection are located • Restrictions on the volume of liquids, gels, and aerosols that can be carried onto an aircraft Contamination and Lost Capture Contamination and lost capture represent twin sources of frustration for airports working to increase diversion. Contamination refers to waste materials in the recycling or composting stream. Improper separation of materials by passengers, employees, or tenants at the point of disposal introduces contamination. Disposal of waste materials in dumpsters or compactors reserved for recyclables or compostables is also an issue because contamination can prevent the materials from being recycled. Recycling processing facilities are designed to separate different types of recyclable materials. While they can remove some waste items, they generally have contamination thresholds. When a load exceeds these contamination thresholds, the entire load may be sent for landfill disposal or incineration. Contamination by liquids is a specific concern for recyclables collected in pre-security screening. Liquids reduce the value of the recyclable materials, especially paper, because the technology at most recycling processing facilities works best with dry materials. Liquids also add extra weight to waste bags, and the plastic bottles containing liquids may not be eligible for recycling. Recyclable and compostable materials in an airport’s waste stream represent lost opportuni- ties to capture these items and divert them from the landfill. The airports explained that lost

Drivers and Challenges 15 capture is the counterpart to contamination—it can come from several sources, occur at several points in the process, and reduce the value of the facility’s recyclables. Resource Challenges Availability of local recycling (eight airports), composting (12 airports), and infrastructure and material markets (10 airports) issues were common themes in the airports’ comments about the obstacles they face. Finding available funding, space, a lack of enforcement authority, and a lack of other resources also affect airports’ waste management programs. Waste and recycling infrastructure is critical to waste management and varies regionally. Markets for recycled materials fluctuate widely. Availability of markets and infrastructure were both listed as challenges in survey responses. Related issues included the materials accepted and prohibited by recycling and composting companies, whether materials can be comingled or must be separated, material rebates available to offset recycling costs, and the interplay between tipping fees and recycling costs. The airports ranked specific waste materials from most difficult to least difficult to address: • Food waste • Glass • Comingled recyclables • Plastic • Green/yard waste • Metal • Cardboard • Aluminum • Paper Composting has specific separation and contamination requirements, and it may also require use of special compostable bags that are more expensive than traditional garbage bags. The local market and infrastructure determine how difficult it is to manage glass in airport waste. While glass is infinitely recyclable, as of 2017, the cost to manage and handle this fragile, heavy material, coupled with a low value, could sometimes make it undesirable in the recycling market. In addition, broken glass contaminates other recyclable materials and can cause issues in a sorting facility. Plastic film and bags were also described as challenging due to the challenges they pose in a sorting facility. Airports strive to operate as cost-effectively as possible, and waste management programs can require significant financial resources for implementation and maintenance. For example, terminal-wide waste and recycling container replacement projects were reported as cost- ing hundreds of thousands of dollars. The waste management costs at individual airports can be influenced by local or regional landfill tipping fees (charges to dispose of waste at landfills or other facilities), scale of operations, types of activities, number of employees, and passenger levels. The surveyed airports are located across regions with varying tipping fees, as shown in Figure 5. Based on annual spending data from 20 airports, normalized to their annual enplanements (taken from the NPIAS, Pub. L. No. 112-95), the airports spent on average $0.04 per passenger for waste to landfill. Based on annual disposal and spending data from 15 airports, normalized to their annual enplanements, the airports spent an average of $103.10 per ton on waste to landfill (ranging from $5.71 to $262.64). Based on annual recycling and spending data from 20 airports, normalized to their annual enplanements, the airports spent on average $0.02 per passenger

16 Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices for recycling (see Figure 6). These values do not appear to correlate with hub classification nor the tipping fee region. Therefore, they must be influenced by other factors not quantified in this synthesis. A common challenge several airports mentioned was a lack of space (noted in over 20 survey comments), both generally at the airport and within tenants’ leased areas. Space at an airport is at a premium, especially around passenger terminals and within restaurant back-of-house areas. Nonrevenue-generating space—for example, for a dumpster or compactor—must compete with revenue-generating space of the same area. Due to the costs associated with operating at an airport, restaurants are designed for back-of-house efficiency and maximum revenue-generating space (dining tables, retail space, etc.), leaving little room for extra waste, recycling bins, and containers. The lack of convenient space can present additional logistic challenges, such as long travel times from points of waste generation to collection areas. Some airports also explained that their organizations’ purchasing processes hindered their ability to procure services and materials in alignment with sustainable waste management. Figure 5. Surveyed airports and regional average tipping fees (Environmental Research and Education Foundation, 2016/2017). Figure 6. Normalized annual spending.

Drivers and Challenges 17 Desired improvements to waste-hauling contracts included increased data availability and expansion of recycling and composting services. The airports identified information gaps regarding airport waste management with these common themes: • Airline recycling practice information • Metrics, market, and material information from waste haulers • Data from tenants, specifically concessionaires • Labor and management requirements of various waste management strategies • Collaboration with the TSA, specifically on liquid restrictions • Cost estimates for spectrum of strategies There is a growing awareness that airports are sometimes calculating their metrics differently, especially numerical values for waste reduction and total diversion. The variation typically centers around specific materials and strategies and whether they are included or excluded from a metric. The variation can contribute to unrealistic comparisons for waste management progress between airport facilities and reporting results to management. Some of the airports expressed an interest in standardizing metrics to alleviate these differences. This mirrors a larger effort to standardize metrics between other organizations, such as the metrics reported by each state. Other Challenges The variation in state and local recycling laws is another challenge. Some airports thought the absence of a local or state requirement weakened the enforceability of and justification for a robust program. The lack of authority to enforce policies also can affect contracts, leases, and airport rules that were not written with input from the parties responsible for the waste program. Another area that may limit a program’s reach is staff time to manage the program, specifically ongoing monitoring or educational components. Periods of peak operations can put even more pressure on waste management systems, on-site infrastructure, related services, and responsible personnel. Future Drivers and Challenges The airports believe that the existing drivers and challenges affecting their programs will continue. The benefits of sustainable practices are anticipated to increase in importance as operations increase, passenger levels rise, and facilities grow. The international market for recyclable materials and recycled goods is dynamic. For example, the airports are following the development of Chinese import restrictions since such restrictions may significantly reduce or eliminate exports of recycled materials. These changes may necessitate a shift in the hierarchy toward reduction and reuse, with less emphasis on recycling or composting. Some organizations are moving toward concepts like circular economy (designing waste out of the industrial model), resource management (mutually beneficial partnerships between waste generator and waste contractor), zero waste, and greenhouse gas/carbon accounting or accreditation. Airports are working to implement these and other innovative, flexible, resilient solutions to respond to the drivers and challenges on the horizon and those that may arise in the long term.

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TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 92: Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices focuses on airport waste management and recycling practices that reduce impacts and costs to airports and their surrounding communities. The information in this study was acquired through a literature review, survey results from 35 organizations representing 36 airports from a range of geographic locations and airport classifications, and interviews of a subset of 21 airport waste management experts. The results of the literature review and survey are presented in this short report. Supporting Materials, Case Examples, and Toolkits for ACRP Synthesis 92 includes survey results, case examples representing in-depth interviews on specific airport waste management and recycling practices, and toolkits of existing effective practices to assist airports in implementing their waste management and recycling programs.

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