Green Initiatives a Focus at America’s Friendliest Airport

Recycling is a key component of operations at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Phoenix Sky Harbor started its recycling program in the early 1990’s with cardboard boxes generated from our tenants’ deliveries. Currently, Sky Harbor recycles 32% of all waste generated on airport, from our airlines, retail shops and restaurants. By working with the city of Phoenix Public Works Department, we plan to improve that over the next few years.

Phoenix Sky Harbor has provided recycling bins throughout the terminals for travelers for the past several years. Sky Harbor employees are also encouraged to recycle at their desks and throughout other Airport locations. Recycling is also available at the PHX Sky Train stations. The tenants at Sky Harbor have access to recycling through our program and the airport supplies waste compactors and balers to improve the ease of recycling. The Sky Harbor recycling program includes a tenant education and outreach program and a dedicated recycling coordinator working to increase tenant awareness and participation.

Sky Harbor even has a facility to process recyclable materials and waste to make operations run much more smoothly.

Currently, Sky Harbor is working hard to make it even easier to recycle. Often, individuals are unsure of what can and cannot be recycled. Now, it is very simple, says Recycling Coordinator Jerry Haws. Just about anything is recyclable with the exception of food waste. The following items may be placed in any recycling container throughout the Airport terminals, offices and loading dock locations:

  • Cardboard, newspaper, magazines, shredded paper, and all paper items
  • Mixed recyclable materials also include glass bottles, metal cans, aluminum cans, all plastic bottles, shrink wrap and all plastic items

Other items that are recycled at Sky Harbor, but are amassed at separate collection points include:

  • Used motor oil and antifreeze
  • Used tires
  • Batteries
  • Pallets
  • Asphalt
  • Concrete
  • Landscape (green waste) such as trees, shrubs, grass and other organic materials
  • Metals, including construction metals

Ever wonder what the most recycled material is at Sky Harbor? Haws says it is a commingled material – a mix of many recyclable items, followed by cardboard which is collected at every point in the Airport. In 2012, 800 tons of commingled/mixed material has been collected and kept from the landfill.

Another fun fact is exactly how much Sky Harbor recycles.

In 2012, Sky Harbor recycled over 4,000 tons of mixed material. That equals to 1/4 lb. per passenger. While that might not sound very impressive, if you consider each passenger is here for a short duration, it is remarkable. The first quarter of 2013 recycling results have us on a path of exceeding the previous year results of tons recycled, Haws says.

In addition to the mixed recyclable material collected last year, Sky Harbor reused 24,000 tons of concrete that had been diverted from the landfill and has been reused on new construction projects at Sky Harbor.

In fact, according to Haws, the 4,000 tons of recycled material during 2012 are equivalent to a 12 story building filled with reusable material.” The 4,000 tons diverted from the landfill were equivalent to removing 3,000 vehicles from our highways conserving 600,000 gallons of gasoline. The water savings equates to 700 average sized swimming pools. The total electricity savings is equivalent to 650 households’ annual energy consumption, or 11,000 barrels of oil.

Additionally, Sky Harbor utilizes other methods to “be green” such as:

  • Using reclaimed asphalt millings (from road and airfield projects) to stabilize soil and control dust
  • Mulching green trimmings and reusing as mulch
  • And, where feasible, re-using excavated soils, asphalt and concrete that have been removed during construction projects

These are just a few of the innovative ways that Sky Harbor works to reduce its environmental impact.

Phoenix Sky Harbor’s Voluntary Acquisition and Relocation Services program (VARS) initiated a goal for demolition contractors to recycle concrete and metals from airport owned properties. This goal was recently made into a contractual requirement for demolition contractors. This requirement does not increase any costs for the city or the contractor. As a result of this initiative, more than 5.1 million pounds of concrete and metals have been diverted from area landfills. The program recently won a City Excellence Award.

Updated: June 19, 2013

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