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Natural Awakenings

Not So Eco-Friendly Skies: Green America ranks major airlines on their recycling efforts. You can help encourage them to do more.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, nearly 75 percent of in-flight generated waste is recyclable, but only 20 percent actually gets recycled. Green America’s consumer watchdog website,, reports that airlines could recycle nearly 500 million more pounds of waste each year, half of it in-flight waste. Some airlines say they’re making progress, yet none collects and processes all the major recyclables of aluminum cans, glass, plastic and paper, or has a comprehensive program to minimize packaging and compost food waste, according to Green America’s recent review.

“For concerned consumers looking to spend their travel dollars wisely, airline waste may be the ultimate example of, ‘What goes up must come down,’” comments lead researcher Victoria Kreha. Green America’s airline rankings for recycling, from best to worst, are: Delta, Virgin, Southwest, Continental, Jet Blue, American, British Airways, Air Tran, United and US Airways.

Beyond the environmental benefits, recycling airline waste would create jobs nationwide; according to Colorado Recycles, recycling creates six times as many jobs as does landfilling.

Take action at; email executives at listed airlines and report how flight attendants answer when asked about company recycling policies.

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