In 2011, Southwest Airlines recycled more than 2,600 tons of co-mingled waste, diverting it from landfills.
Co-Mingled Recycling Program
In 2009, Southwest Airlines established the first systemwide onboard, co-mingled recycling program in the nation. This program uses a single contractor to recycle waste collected onboard our entire fleet of aircraft. We also recycle similar materials on the ground at most Southwest Airlines facilities across the nation, wherever programs are available. Our co-mingled recycling stream includes paper, cardboard, types one and two plastic, and aluminum. Due to the volume of material generated at our Headquarters, we recycle many additional waste streams—including glass, types three through seven plastic, empty aerosol cans, and steel and tin cans—beyond our systemwide collection. Our Headquarters campus in Dallas, six Customer Service & Support centers, 22 aircraft Provisioning facilities, and four of our largest stations (Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, and Chicago), which include Crew bases, cargo facilities, ground support equipment, and aircraft Maintenance bases, participate in our co-mingled recycling program. Most of our recycling of onboard waste happens at our aircraft Provisioning facilities. When we fly into cities that do not have Provisioning facilities, we keep the recycled materials onboard the aircraft, space permitting, until we return to a Provisioning location.
The environmental benefits of this program include:
- Reducing waste volume to conserve landfill space
- Minimizing future greenhouse gas emissions through the contribution of recycled materials, which can be used to make new products with a smaller carbon footprint
- Preserving raw materials as well as the energy and water required for processing raw materials
- Purchasing renewable energy-driven equipment such as solar compactors with co-mingled recycling program rebates
- Promoting recycling to our Employees and Customers through education to encourage more recycling not only onboard our aircraft and in the office but also at home
Our co-mingled recycling program has been very successful, but that does not stop us from continuously trying to improve upon this success. While we work to recycle as much as possible, there are some onboard materials that cannot be included in the co-mingled waste stream, including glass wine bottles, plastic drinking cups, and conventional hot beverage cups. Our plastic drinking cups and hot beverage cups are made from recycled materials and are unable to be recycled again. We are working with our vendors to find environmentally responsible alternatives to these cups. Also, in early 2012, we will switch to plastic wine bottles, which reduce weight and allow the bottles to be safely recycled in our co-mingled stream. In 2011, we purchased our first piece of solar-powered equipment. This solar compactor will be placed at the Las Vegas Provisioning station and will make recycling operations more efficient while utilizing the sun as its power source. We will be evaluating its performance for potential future purchases in other locations. These efforts contribute to our ongoing commitment to minimizing the amount of waste disposed in landfills, selecting environmentally responsible products, and using renewable energy resources to reduce the impact we have on our Planet.
Measuring Our Environmental Impact: Co-Mingled Recycling
We track our co-mingled recycling program’s success through monthly reports compiled by Republic Services. In 2011, we diverted more than 2,600 tons of co-mingled waste material from landfills as a direct result of recycling. While this was a 5 percent increase over our 2010 quantities, it fell short of our goal of a 10 percent improvement. We have laid a strong foundation for our recycling program and diverted more than 6,800 tons of material from landfills and into recycling facilities since August 2008. We will continue to strive for progress in our recycling program, and in the next five years we aim to increase the quantity of materials recycled onboard our aircraft and in our facilities by 2.5 percent per year for a total of a 10 percent improvement by 2015 over our 2011 levels.
|1||This data includes recycling of paper, plastic, aluminum, and cardboard from aircraft and select facilities as part of the Southwest Airlines co-mingled recycling program. Excludes AirTran recycling data.|
|2||Tracking of recycling data began August 2008.|
|3||Onboard co-mingled recycling program was launched November 2009.|