Master Recyclers Tour PDX (Back of the House)

Travelers. Security. Airplanes. Vehicles. Vendors. And one Aviation Environmental Compliance Manager dedicated to reducing waste at Portland International Airport. Stan Jones has managed the Port of Portland’s PDX recycling program since 2003. And he’s a Master Recycler too, so he proudly shared some the terminal’s processes with Masters Audrey Desler, Felictia Monteblanco, Lisa Clifton, Kelly Bryan, Su-wen Chen, Mitzi Sugar, Gustav Sculptor and Chatten Hayes on April 7th, 2011.

He educates many people in his position, but his favorite audiences are well-informed already. “You’re a perfect group for this presentation,” he says. Airplanes off-load about four tons of waste daily, nearly 40 percent of the 10 tons of daily waste generated by PDX terminal operations. Regrettably, some companies aren’t doing the recycling job they should. For example, many airlines aren’t as green as advocates of recycling would like to see. Captive passengers and earnest flight crews may not be aware that many bags containing deplaned recyclables (like cans and newspapers) eventually head to the terminal’s dumpsters, not recycling bins.

“Horizon is one of the few airlines with a successful deplaned waste recycling program,” according to Stan. One factor is the complexity of “deplaning” waste. Many hands have roles in removal: flight attendants, flight kitchen staff, and cabin service providers.

A key problem for keeping good processes rolling is the turnover in staffing at PDX restaurants and businesses. In intents and purposes, PDX is a city of 10,000 all its own. Stan is an innovator of better terminal practices. Those pre-security liquids bins in Boston and Austin? They were Stan’s idea, tried here first. “We’ve been a leader in many areas of airport recycling,” he says modestly. Beverages collected at the stations are poured into the sanitary sewer, and the empty bottles are easily recyclable. Another bonus: reduced janitorial costs at checkpoints due to weight reduction. Stan would like to see is a refill station after checkpoints, so travelers don’t struggle refilling bottles at drippy angles from fountains. But guess what? Airport vendors want to sell the bottled water and bottle refilling stations are viewed by some as lost sales. “You’ve got the business component of this I’m constantly reminded of,” he says.

 Rachel Zarfas (Class 37) and mounds of coffee cups

Rachel Zarfas (Class 37) and mounds of coffee cups

Water is one thing, but what about that other ubiquitous Portland beverage? Over six thousand cups of coffee leave the airport’s many coffee bars each day. Stan’s got a plan in cooperation with Starbucks. After amassing 300 pounds of used cups, the load heads north to Longview Fibre and the cups are tossed into the pulper and see if they are able to extract enough fiber to recycle to be worth the costs.

Some materials come full circle much more easily. Terminal food vendors’ filtered waste grease is reprocessed and returns to fuel PDX’s maintenance fleet in the form of B20 biodiesel blend.

Stan never fails to remind people to ask the “right” question: not, “How do we get all those recyclables out of that huge pile?” but rather, “Why is that pile so darn big?”