How to do airport waste management right

The travel and tourism industry’s rapid recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 brings good news for airports, as it means an increase in customer traffic for them. However, it also highlights the importance of effective and sustainable airport waste management practices.

Airports, with their diverse range of establishments and operations, generate a variety of waste types, including food leftovers, beverage spillage, paper and plastic packaging, and so on. It is, therefore, crucial to implement appropriate waste management procedures to handle them. In this blog post, we will discuss just that:

Types of airport waste

It is important to note that different airports may have different waste streams based on their specific operations, and some airports may have additional types of waste not listed here. Nonetheless, here are some of the most common types of waste you can find at airports:

  1. Solid municipal waste from the airport includes newspapers, clothes, food scraps, product packaging, and old furniture.
  2. Construction and demolition waste is the municipal solid waste generated during the construction, renovation, or improvement of airport infrastructure or facilities.
  3. Green waste is what landscaping and landscape maintenance operations create.
  4. Food waste includes any food brought into the airport and food rejected by or as a result of the eateries or food services offered at the airport.
  5. Toxic or hazardous waste poses a poisoning danger. These include part washes, heavy metal paint, solvents, waste fuel, and epoxies. Airport management must follow safety rules for handling hazardous or toxic waste.

Ways to manage waste properly at airporte

Airports are bustling with activity as millions of people pass through daily, all in a hurry to catch flights or land to meet loved ones and/or attend meetings. This sense of urgency can lead to a lack of consideration for waste disposal as passengers often act impulsively to get rid of their trash.

This results in discarded coffee cups, plastic bottles, food packaging, magazines, and plastic bags being thrown into the nearest bin or left on chairs. That is what is called waste apathy.

To combat the problem, airports can take advantage of their enclosed spaces to test new solutions. For example, installing water refilling stations can help reduce the amount of discarded plastic bottles. One way to do this is by encouraging passengers to bring their empty reusable bottles and refill them for free instead of buying bottled water.

As people become more environmentally aware, airport management can use stories about waste reduction and recycling in their marketing campaigns to educate and engage passengers. By proactively taking the following steps, airports can play a role in reducing the amount of waste they have to deal with daily:

1. Material efficiency

By identifying where waste is primarily coming from and implementing strategies to reduce material usage, airports can optimise their use of resources. This also includes utilising recovered resources whenever possible.

2. Plastic alternatives

Plastic waste is a significant problem at airports, primarily in the form of packaging, bottles, disposables, and straws. By collectively reducing the use of plastic, airports can easily implement alternative materials such as paper, hay, or bamboo straws and recycled cardboard, paper, or biodegradable packaging.

3. Recycling bins

Segregating waste at the source is a simple, cost-effective, and manageable way to handle the waste. Placing recycling bins in visible locations and using standard labels can help passengers sort their waste easily and efficiently.

4. Food waste management

Cafes, restaurants, and other food establishments at airports generate a large amount of waste, including leftovers, peels, and expired food. Implementing strategies such as assessing the amount of food waste generated, handling overproduction, optimising menus, making side dishes optional, labelling food items according to ‘best by’ and ‘use by’ dates, and recycling food scraps and peels can help reduce overall waste.

5. Strategic bin placement

Positioning bins in easy-to-collect areas and away from food preparation, cooking, and serving areas can make waste management more streamlined and effective. Additionally, keeping bins closed can prevent rodent and pest infestation and reduce odours in public spaces.

6. Zero waste initiatives

Airports can adopt zero-waste initiatives such as recycling all coffee cups and plastic bottles, reducing and optimising material usage, and repurposing plastic packaging. Composting food scraps is also a great way to minimise and manage waste.

7. Education and awareness

Encouraging and educating passengers, staff, and other stakeholders about the importance of waste management, recycling and environmental sustainability can help them understand the significance of their actions, reduce waste and contribute to the conservation of the environment. Putting up posters and running infomercials on the TV screens across the airports can help support this to a great extent.

8. Collaboration and partnership

Joining hands with local authorities, waste management providers, recycling firms, and other stakeholders can help airports to access the latest technology, knowledge and best practices in waste management, optimise waste reduction and diversion, and promote a circular economy.

Upgrade to bin lifting and tipping technologies

Wheelie bins are commonly used at airports to collect and dispose of waste. These are designed to be easily moved and emptied by airport maintenance staff and can be used to collect various waste materials, including paper, plastic, and food waste.

They are often used with other waste management systems, such as recycling and composting programs, to help reduce the environmental impact of airport operations.

As Simpro Handling Equipment’s exclusive UK and Ireland distributor, we take pride in giving you easy access to their cost-efficient and easy-to-use bin lifters. These solutions minimise human labour, decrease incidents, and simplify waste management. Contact us to inquire about how Simpro’s bin lifters can help.

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