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Alaska Airlines Ups Recycling 20%

Alaska Airlines has partnered with Ecova to increase its recycling volume by a fifth and reduce that program’s expenses by 73 percent, according to a case study released by the sustainability management firm.

In 2011, prior to Ecova’s involvement, the airline recycled more than 800 tons of waste from its airplanes – everything from paper and cold cups to coffee grounds – and 100,000 pounds of steel from its Seattle hangar alone. Seattle Business Magazine lauded the airline for its in-flight recycling program that captured 46 percent of recyclable materials in 2010.

Despite this success, the airline brought in Ecova’s Waste Management Solutions team to take the recycling program further. Ecova audited the trash and recycling streams in the airline’s offices and began a search for a vendor to implement a new waste prevention and diversion program. Through the process Ecova found improvements could be made in the availability of recycling bins and by providing clearer recycling instructions.

As a result Ecova implemented a single-stream waste management process with a single bin for all trash at every desk.

Ecova used email blasts and new photo-heavy signage detailing what could be recycled to better communicate recycling plans with employees.

Ecova found that one site had a significant amount of vendor packing in the trash. As a result, Alaska Airlines reached out to regular visitors to ensure that they obeyed the recycling protocols.

Across the sites where the plans were implemented, the changes reduced Alaska Airlines’ annual trash volume by 830 cubic yards, which is enough to fill three 737-800 passenger planes. The new waste contractor, new recycling program and other measures reduced the airline’s waste expenses by more than 73 percent.

Alaska Airlines increased its recyclables collection rate from 44 percent in 201o to 49 percent in 2011, according the latest sustainability report released by Alaska Air Group – the parent company of both Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. According to the report, the group has also replaced non-recyclable polystyrene main cabin coffee cups with recyclable paper coffee cups and begun providing compostable plant-based cutlery to its main cabin passengers.

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