Portland airport sets high water mark for recycling

airport-securityWho hasn’t experienced that sprint through the airport to catch a plane? In a rush, hands full with carry-ons and a half-full water bottle you forgot to ditch.

In 2006, Homeland Security passed those pesky regulations that air travelers everywhere have found not only inconvenient but annoying. Not only do we have to go one step away from stripping – no belts, shoes, jewelry – but we then have to dump any leftover beverages we still have before being allowed to get through TSA’s security.

The  impact on the environment from all thos half-empty water bottles can be huge, and costly.

Stan Jones, the environmental compliance manager at the Port of Portland, oversees many programs that cut waste at the airport.  He found it was costing up to $100 a day  in extra dump fees. And on the staffing side, janitors struggled to manage overflowing water-filled trashcans.

Water bottle waste can cost airports $75,000 a year!

Water bottle waste can cost airports $75,000 a year!

Trying to cope, the airport decided to dump the cans more often – from every two hours to half an hour. But costs flew up to $100 a day. That’s $100 a day for extra dumping, and $100 a day for extra staffing, making Airport waste costs around $75,000 a year!

Last Fall, the airport tried something new, setting up stainless steel collection bins outside security checkpoints. Twice a day they’re wheeled off, measured, and drained into modified mop sinks by janitors. Liquids now flow into the sewer system, instead of being hauled to a landfill, and empty bottles are then recycled.

And one more thing. The Portland Airport has a personal reminder for travelers. Roger Nelson is one of them.

“We do have pouring stations,” he reminds people. “Yes, the big PS, either left or right, just pour it into there. Once you do pour it, empty out, take the empty bottle with you, fill it up on the other side. Our water is cold, filtered and free. Did I get you on the free part, right?”

It seems to be working. Dumping stations are diverting several thousand pounds of liquid from the trash every month.  The Port of Portland is now working with other airports looking to set up similar systems.

Who would have thought something so simple – more frequent trash pick-ups and gentle reminders – could make such a difference?

California creates the first marine protected parks

northern-ca-coast-1California’s Fish & Game Commission has approved the nation’s first state marine protected areas (MPA’s). Ocean habitats between Santa Cruz and Mendocino County in northern California will now be considered underwater state parks.

This new plan, which goes into effect in February 2010:

  • Creates twenty four MPAs

  • Protects about 86 square miles of north central coast ocean waters

  • Leaves almost 90 percent of the coast open to fishing

  • Leaves all the ocean open to diving, surfing, kayaking and other recreational uses

“We all worked really hard to create this plan,” said Fred Smith of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, a member of the stakeholder advisory group. “People may look back at this time, and think we were crazy for thinking protecting 10 percent of our ocean was too much.”

Point Reyes National Seashore - now part of California's new Marine Protected Areas

Point Reyes National Seashore - now part of California's new Marine Protected Areas

The new North Central Coast marine protected areas will protect the waters around the Farallon Islands, Point Reyes Headlands and Stewarts Point, some of northern California’s most beautiful natural treasures.

“California is a leader in creating the nation’s first statewide network of marine protected areas,” said Karen Garrison of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and a member of the stakeholder advisory group. “Like national parks on land, these areas are the Yosemites of the sea, places where wildlife can thrive.”