The National Academies

ACRP 11-02/Task 28 [Final]

Recovering International Recyclables from In-flight Service
[ ACRP 11-02 (Quick Response for Special Needs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $122,000
Research Agency: GeneraCycle
Principal Investigator: Gregoire James
Effective Date: 6/16/2017
Completion Date: 10/31/2018


The USDA mandates that regulated (i.e., international) waste can be handled only by a person or business with a compliance agreement with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). In general, waste from arriving international flights must be disposed of by incineration, sterilization, or grinding into an approved sewage system. While the USDA APHIS Recycling Material Exemption identifies situations in which materials can be recycled, in most cases these materials are still disposed of. Research is needed to identify opportunities for increasing the share of international waste that is recycled, including a review of practices in other countries.
The objective of this research is to prepare a primer for airport industry practitioners that describes current practice regarding recovering recyclables from flights arriving from international destinations. The primer should include, at a minimum:
  • A discussion of why airports and their stakeholders are focusing on recycling material from arriving international flights;
  • An overview of how current U.S. policies and regulations concerning the handling of international waste from in-flight service were developed, including the research upon which they are based (e.g., pest risk analysis or pathway analysis), and how they are currently applied;
  • A review of non-U.S. recycling laws and practices relative to recovering waste from arriving international flights, including considerations for potential applicability in the U.S.;
  • A description and flow chart of arriving international waste from the aircraft to its final disposition (i.e., incineration, sterilization, grinding);
  • A discussion of potential current, near-term, and long-range recycling challenges and opportunities (including specific materials that could be salvaged);
  • A discussion of potential costs, cost savings, and/or opportunities for revenue generation from the recycling of international in-flight solid waste;
  • Guidance for airports to partner with stakeholders to maximize the recycling of international waste;
  • A discussion of U.S. laws affecting opportunities for recovering recyclables from international in-flight service; and
  • U.S. and non-U.S. case study examples.

Research is complete.  Results are available as ACRP Web-Only Document 46.

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