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Delta Sustainability Report: Waste Production Drops 12%

In 2011, Delta Airlines generated 2.9 million pounds of non-hazardous waste, a reduction of 12 percent over 2010 levels. Just over 58 percent of this non-hazardous waste was recycled in 2011, according to the company’s latest corporate sustainability report.

A recycling program of note is the company’s partnership with information storage company Iron Mountain’s secure shredding program. This initiative recycled 495 tons of paper in 2011. Delta says it saved 8,257 trees, 3.4 million gallons of water, 223,411 gallons of oil and 1.2 kWh of electricity from the program.

The company’s in-flight recycling program, which launched in 2007 as a result of voluntary, staff-led, efforts to collect recyclable materials from customers on flights, recycled around 955,000 pounds of waste in 2011, down from 1.1 million pounds in 2010. Other recent waste management initiatives by the company include efforts to reduce paper use through electronic ticketing; recycling of aircraft carpet; and a facility for employees to recycle household goods on Delta’s corporate campus in Atlanta, the report says.

Last year saw the company cut its hazardous waste production by around 12 percent, from roughly 1.37 million pounds in 2010 to around 1.22 million pounds in 2011.

In 2011, the company’s carbon emissions increased one percent from 2010 levels, from 38.2 to 38.6 million metric tons of CO2e. Delta says the rise was due to a 0.8 percent increase in available seat miles flown by mainline and regional aircraft.

The company’s overall greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 7.5 million metric tons, or 16 percent, between 2005 and 2011 (see graph below). Unsurprisingly, aircraft emissions represent 98 percent of Delta’s carbon emissions – a percentage that has not changed since Delta’s 2005 baseline. The company is currently working with The Climate Registry to establish a 2015 greenhouse gas emissions goal and has updated its 2005-2010 emissions numbers to ones calculated based on guidelines provided by The Climate Registry. According to the report, Delta had aimed to establish the 2015 goal in 2011, a target it evidently missed.

Delta is a member of the International Air Transport Association, a group that has the goal of improving fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5 percent each year from 2009 to 2020. Delta’s mainline fleet fuel efficiency declined 0.7 percent from 2010 to 2011 – due, Delta says, to a 1.2 percent decline in system load factor and various customer service and operational enhancements such as lie-flat seats, economy comfort seating and on-time initiatives that resulted in faster, less fuel-efficient flying.

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