Tell the Airlines to Recycle Their In-Flight Waste

As we exposed in our first report on airline recycling, there’s a huge amount of trash generated each and every time we fly — more than 881 million pounds every year. That’s 9,000 tons of plastic, enough aluminum cans to build 58 Boeing 747 jets, and enough paper to cover a football field 230 meters deep. What’s worse is that our report found only about 20 percent of this waste being recycled.

This work became our most-downloaded report ever, and was featured on CNN, in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and in other media outlets all over the country. It also sparked the imagination of our partners at MoxyVote (the shareholder action group), and so we’re pleased to share with you MoxyVote’s most recent action letter: a message to seven of the biggest airlines demanding policies that work toward zero in-flight waste, including 100-percent recycling, composting, and staff training in waste reduction.

Sign MoxyVote & Green America’s letter »

The good news is that your pressure is already working. After our successful actions in 2010 and 2011 (asking the airlines to do better, and documenting YOUR experiences with waste on your flights), we’ve heard back that the airlines’ policies on in-flight waste are changing.

Right now, our corporate responsibility team is collecting data from the airlines for our follow-up 2012 report, you’ll see that there’s some good news. Some airlines made significant improvements, and told us our report was the impetus for their changes. We’ll tell you which are doing better, and which are still lagging behind.

Please sign the letter today to keep the airlines on notice that the public demands more recycling, and look for our follow-up report later this spring.

Categories: recycling


  1. Your report incorrectly states that “no airline recycled all of the major recyclables: aluminum, glass, plastic, glass”. You neglected to mention Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air — both have robust recycling programs and recycled inflight comingled waste (paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass) at all of their catering locations. Horizon has been recycling since the late 1990’s.

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