Saturday, May 7, 2011

Guest blog #19: Ashwin Salvi at the airport

Here is a little piece that Ashwin wrote the other day, which goes in line with previous posts on the issues of travel and choice. He talks about the issues of waste in airports and in planes, aside from the considerable atmospheric, and consequently climate and ecological, impacts of air travel.

"The issue of trash and waste really didn't sink in until I was at the airport the other day and was sipping on my coffee (of course, from a disposable cup).  I took a look around, people watching, when I realized almost everyone at my gate had at least one, if not more, disposable items with them.  Items ranged from coffee cups, plastic bottles, plastic food containers, wrappers, etc., all things we have become accustomed to expect when shopping at the food/drink stalls.

If this is what I experienced just at my gate, I can only imagine it is approximately the same at other gates. And other terminals.  And other times through out the day.  And at multiple other airports.  

I did some research into the trash airports generate, and although many trash reducing steps like recycling (though some still consider that waste) have been implemented, the data presented in a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council is startling.  In 2004, the U.S. airline industry discarded enough aluminum cans each year to build 58 Boeing 747 jets! (A Boeing 747-400 is made of 147,000 lbs of high-strength aluminum.) In addition, 18,000,000 lbs of plastic were also discarded and enough newspaper and magazines thrown away to fill a football field to a depth of more than 230 feet.  The report also stated that from the 10 airports reporting, 1.28 lbs of waste was created per passenger, about 1/3 the total amount of waste Americans generate in one day.  Considering that an empty 20 fl oz plastic bottle weighs approximately 2 oz, 1.28 pounds is considerable.

While these numbers are seven years old and many measures have been implemented to reduce waste from airport, it still highlights the severity of the problem.  There will be a point soon that this drastically high rate of waste production is going to directly impact the liberties and comforts we enjoy in life.  While airports have become stricter with what you can bring through security, there are still ways to reduce your waste generation. For example, bring a reusable empty water bottle and fill it up with water/tasty beverage of choice after security.  Instead of purchasing food with lots of packaging or getting food to go, get something freshly made (pizza comes to mind) or eat at the store if that replaces the use of boxes/styrofoam with a reusable plate.  

I encourage everyone to think about all the things you throw away and how you can reduce your waste footprint.  Simple changes like replacing paper towels with a cloth towel can go a long way to reduce waste, energy consumption and the factors that contribute to larger problems like climate change."
Post script
More on aviation and ethics as part of my's going to be exciting!   

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