For Immediate Release

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Leslie Anderson, (703) 276-3256 or

New Airline Recycling Rankings: United and US Airways Flunk, While Delta, Virgin, and Southwest Get Best Grades, According to

US Airlines Generate Over 880 Million Tons of Waste Annually -- 75 Percent of Which Could Be Recycled,but Only 20 Percent Is; Consumers Urged to Factor Recycling Policies Into Air Travel Decisions.

WASHINGTON - Which airlines are taking steps to reduce the
vast amount of waste generated each year by the industry?  Delta,
Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Southwest are doing the best job,
according to the new report "What Goes Up Must Go Down: The Sorry State
of Recycling in the Airline Industry" from Green America's consumer
watchdog Web site ( The report also shows that United and US Airways are doing the worst job when it comes to recycling.

airlines could recycle nearly 500 million more tons of waste each year
(including 250 million tons of in-flight waste).  While airlines
acknowledge the importance of recycling waste, no airline recycles all
the major recyclables: aluminum cans, glass, plastic, and paper.  No
airline has a comprehensive program for minimizing or composting food
waste or waste from snack packages, provides good public information
about their recycling program, or reports out on progress in relation
to any stated goals.  In addition, all airlines provide over-packaged
snacks and meals and none of the airlines are working with
manufacturers to reduce this waste.

Green America airline recycling rankings are (from best to worst):
Delta Airlines, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest Airlines,
Continental Airlines, Jet Blue, American Airlines, British Airways, Air
Tran, United Airlines, and US Airways. 

America Responsible Shopper Lead Researcher Victoria Kreha said: "For
concerned consumers looking to spend their travel dollars wisely,
airline waste may be the ultimate example of ‘what goes up must come
down.'  The good news is that airlines are starting to pay attention to
recycling; the bad news is that they have a long way to go to improve
the situation.  Fortunately, airlines can overcome any of the
challenges to creating in-flight recycling programs, including employee
education and involvement, knowledge of the type of waste produced, and
a time- and space-efficient system."

America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen said: "While
airlines may face some challenges in creating effective recycling
programs, evidence shows that working systems can be implemented. Our
report demonstrates that several airlines are significantly ahead of
their competitors in taking these steps, and it is clear that
comprehensive recycling programs can be implemented effectively and

The report looks at
five areas: variety in waste recycled, future in-flight recycling
plans, size of in-flight recycling program, education/encouragement of
employees in onboard recycling programs, other in-flight sustainability
initiatives, and provides overall rankings.  Industry-wide finds that there is room for tremendous
improvement and no airline received higher than a B- grade overall.

75 percent of in-flight generated waste is recyclable; however only
about 20 percent actually is recycled.  According to research published
by the Natural Resource Defense Council, annually, airlines throw away
9,000 tons of plastic, enough aluminum cans to build 58 Boeing 747
jets, and enough newspaper and magazines to cover a football field 230
meters deep.  The energy savings from recycling this waste would
represent a contribution by the airlines to reducing their
environmental impact in the face of the considerable climate impact of
jet fuel, including 600 million tons of carbon dioxide per year pumped
into the atmosphere by commercial jets alone.

the environmental benefits, recycling this waste would create jobs
nationwide, since according to Colorado Recycles, recycling creates six
times as many jobs as landfilling

addition to the overall dismal recycling policies of the airlines,
Green America's on-flight research identified that some airlines are
not actually implementing their stated policies in the air.  As a
result, Green America is calling on passengers nationwide to
respectfully ask flight attendants if materials on their specific
flights are being recycled, and to report their findings to Green
America at

The full Airline recycling report is available at
Contact information for all of the airlines is available in the report
for passengers wishing to contact airlines to request that they improve
their recycling practices.


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Green America is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982 and known until January 1, 2009 as "Co-op America."  Green America’s mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

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