The National Academies

ACRP Synthesis 11-03/Topic S02-18 [Active (Synthesis)]

Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices
[ ACRP 11-03 (Synthesis of Information Related to Airport Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 2/1/2017 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Gail R. Staba
Research Agency: Mead and Hunt
Principal Investigator: Morgan Turner
Effective Date: 6/27/2017
Fiscal Year: 2017

Final Scope

Airport managers and environmental/sustainability staff continue to request information on the accomplishments and activities of the industry with regard to waste management and diversion. Airlines, tenants, concessionaires, and key internal stakeholders play an important role in managing airport-generated waste and may find value in understanding this issue. Industry organizations and ACRP have conducted surveys in an attempt to collect, evaluate, and disseminate this information. However, a single resource has yet to emerge for industry reference. In addition, the industry is looking for aviation-specific standard methods for calculating recycling and diversion rates and other metrics used for program and facility comparisons.

Many airports seek effective practices to improve their programs. Recycling, composting, food donation, reuse, and waste reduction are important aspects of ongoing waste management activities at airports. These activities impact landfill disposal quantities, associated costs, and the environment. Each waste management strategy presents challenges and, as a result, airport waste management programs vary.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) expanded the definition of airport planning to include “developing a plan for recycling and minimizing the generation of airport solid waste.” Additionally, a provision requires airports to include solid waste recycling when preparing a master plan. The interest in best practices related to waste management and diversion at airports is widespread.

The objective of this synthesis is to summarize effective practices, strategies, methods, and goals regarding airport waste management and diversion. Through literature review, surveys, and interviews, the researcher will collect and document effective diversion practices from airports of diverse sizes and geographic locations. The information collected will include:

• Description of the airport’s waste management and diversion program.
• Waste management economics (e.g., tipping fees, costs, expenses, rebates, incentives).
• Successful program elements (recycling, composting, food donation, waste reduction, reuse, etc.).
• Summary of waste audit results regarding composition, quantities, and sources.
• Description of capital investments and infrastructure utilized under the program.
• Description of contracting relationships impacting the program.
• Operation and maintenance requirements of the program.
• Calculation methods and metrics tracked (e.g., diversion rate, per passenger metrics).
• Local and state requirements impacting the program.
• Waste diversion goals: airport, airlines, tenants, and concessionaires.
• General assessment of the successes and challenges of the program.
• Obstacles encountered and actions to overcome them.
• Tools, resources and examples to be included as appendices (waste characterization audits, standardized labeling, marketing plans, signage, contracts and agreements, reporting tools, messaging/social marketing, etc.)

The research will provide a concise report that describes effective strategies available and diversion potential for a range of airport sizes and regions.

Partial information sources:

Airports Council International – North America Environmental Affairs Committee
Airports Council International and member airports
American Association of Airport Executives and members, specifically those involved with Airports Going Green
Federal Aviation Administration Airport Planning and Environmental Division

Literature References:

Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Trash Landings: How Airlines and Airports Can Clean Up Their Recycling Programs”, published December 2006.

Wheels Up: A Look at How U.S. Airports Manage Waste and Recycling, Waste 360 Blog, Dec 15, 2016.

ACRP Synthesis 10 “Airport Sustainability Practices”, published 2008.

United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Developing and Implementing an Airport Recycling Program”, published April 2009.

Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Report 100 “Recycling Best Practices – A Guidebook for Advancing Recycling from Aircraft Cabins”, published September 2012.

FAA Synthesis Document “Recycling, Reuse, and Waste Reduction Plans at Airports”, published April 2013.

FAA Order 5100.38D “Airport Improvement Program”, updated September 2014.

FAA’s “Guidance on Airport Recycling, Reuse, and Waste Reduction”, published September 2014.

Chicago’s O’Hare Modernization Program and Sustainable Airport Manual (SAM)

FAA’s Sustainable Master Plan Pilot Program

There are several ACRP projects that have defined sustainability best practices. However, as noted above, none of these have researched how the best practices are perceived in communities or help drive capacity enhancement or capital projects at airports.


Topic Panel 
Kane Carpenter, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Jerry Haws, City of Phoenix Aviation Department
Liza Milagro, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Bryan C. Wagoner, Wayne County Airport Authority-DTW
Jeremy Webb, Port of Seattle Aviation Division
Jerry P. Williams, Denver International Airport
Shenghua Wu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Janell Barrilleaux, Federal Aviation Administration
Christine Gerencher, Transportation Research Board 

Gail Staba
email: gstaba@nas.edu
phone: 202-334-2442

First meeting: May 8, 2017, Irvine, CA 
Teleconference: June 27, 2017 
Second meeting: November 9, 2017, Irvine, CA 

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