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Trashy Travel

| Thursday December 14th, 2006 | 4 Comments

A-380.jpgWhen I travel, I reluctantly throw away my recyclables as it is too much hassle to seek out a recycling bin. I guess I’m not alone: According to the WSJ “Airlines Feel Pressure as Pollution Fight Takes Off“, the airline industry throws away enough aluminum cans each year to build 58 Boeing 747s. To put that in perspective, since 1970, only 1469 747s have been built, and fewer than that are in service.
Never mind the plastic cups, glass, magazines, and all the fuel consumed. The airlines are actually improving somewhat – fuel efficiency is improving 2% per year. However, air travel has been growing at about 5% annually, for a net increase in waste.
To their credit, Airlines have been working on more important things for those of us who occasionally like to fly, like staying in business. And since the 70s, they have cut down on noise pollution, air pollution, and as
those who fly know, they don’t serve food anymore. Yes, we complained about the food, and now we complain about the absence of food.


GE is building more efficient engines. The two new mid size models from the duopoly, the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 are allegedly more efficient, and the new big flying pigs the 747-8 and the A380 are efficient like a
Chevy Suburban with eight passengers is far more efficient per passenger mile than a Toyota Prius with only one or two.
Baby steps are great, let’s recycle all the recyclables at airports, let’s pack the customers in like sardines across the Atlantic, (the Chiropractic industry will benefit from that) and let’s fly the most efficient planes we can as efficiently as possible.
Beyond that, it’s hard to imagine the air travel situation seriously improving without some seriously leapfrogging technology.
Scotty, Beam me home for the holidays.


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  • Sarah Feinstein

    You got me curious Sam about which airlines are recycling, but what I found out wasn’t especially impressive.
    Southwest Airlines recycles aluminum cans. Alaska Airlines separates out cans, but leaves it up to the caterers to take it from there. America West Airlines mysteriously has a “low quantity” of cans, so a recycling program is not necessary.
    Some companies have a hard time because the caterers don’t support recycling while others mention the lack of recycling at the airports. It seems as if the airlines have enough pull that they could persuade the powers that be or bypass the use of cans with a soda fountain.

  • Michael

    Some airline I was on recently – it may have been America West – offered only a small selection of soft drinks which were poured from 2-liter bottles. That strategy is probably a cost-cutting move (less soda per passenger) but it would also explain an absence of cans. Of course, they probably tossed the plastic bottles into the trash…

  • Nick Aster

    A long time ago I concieved of an invention that would be modeled after this wall side can crusher – [SEE PHOTO HERE].
    The difference would be you could mount it on the galley cart that the flight attendants push along and be operated by foot. They drop the cans in and push a pedal and the cans get collected in the bottom. Thing is, I figured it would barely be cost effective in pure bottom dollar language, but perhaps someone could make it work.

  • http://www.AskPablo.org Pablo

    What gets me is that, even if they had the will to recycle their plastic cups, they can’t because they are made out of Polystyrene (PS), which is not recycled in most states including California. I usually ask for just the can. That way I avoid the cup, the excessive amounts of filthy ice (there are studies about how bad the ice on airplanes is), and I get twice as much drink…