Airports and airlines recycle some surprising stuff

For my At the Airport column in USATODAY.com this month I offered a fun round-up of items being recycled by airports and airlines in an effort to be help save the earth and, in some cases, to save some serious money.

You can read the full column, For airports and airlines, creative recyling  brings cost savings, on the USA TODAY website but  briefly, the list I included ranges from airports that recycle, reuse or re-purpose everything from old metal detectors, used de-icing fluid and concrete from old runways to creative partnerships between airports or airlines and local non-profits and green businesses. 

Two examples:

Jacksonville International Airport is working with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on a project to turn tree clippings into food. The zoo needs a reliable year-round source of fresh “browse,” the natural vegetation eaten by many of the zoo’s large mammals. The grounds around the airport are full of browse-worthy trees and shrubs that could do with some regular clipping.  So browse harvested at the airport in the morning now becomes dinner for giraffe, elephants and great apes at the zoo;

And old seat covers from Delta and re-branded Northwest airplanes that could have ended up in a landfill somewhere were instead donated to Tierra Ideas, a small North Carolina company that is recycling the bags as messenger bags, laptop cases and other travel accessories with patterns that will very familiar to frequent fliers on those airlines.

A Delta spokesperson says so far Delta has donated about 5,873 pounds of fabric from an estimated 20,000 seat covers. “…Enough fabric to cover 92 of Delta’s 767-300ER aircraft.”

And – here’s something that didn’t fit in the column: On May 17th, Purdue University Airport, in West Lafayette, IN will be recyling this 737 aircraft.

“Shredding it,” is the term Betty Stansbury of Purdue University uses:

The aircraft is a 41 year old Boeing 737-200 donated to the University by United Airlines fifteen years ago for research and training purposes in Purdue’s  Aviation Technology Program. 

“The plane has reached the end of its useful life, and will be shredded starting on Monday May 17th. ….We use a large cutting device, called a shearer, to chew the plane into smaller pieces, which are placed in metal containers for transportation, melting and recycling.”