As more businesses adapt to sustainable and environmentally-responsible practices, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA), which serves nearly 12 million passengers per year, has taken ambitious steps in recent years to curb the amount of waste at the airport. To help in its efforts, ABIA looked to Delaware North, which operates food, beverage and retail locations at the airport, to pilot a composting program to capture and responsibly dispose of organic food waste.
“Although there are several concessionaires at ABIA, Delaware North was chosen to carry out the compost trial program both because of the size of our operation as well as our active participation in environmental initiatives through GreenPath,” said J.P. Williams, who is Delaware North’s facilities manager at the airport and leads the location’s GreenPath program.
The composting program, which has been planned with the airport and its disposal contractors for several months, began its test phase on Jan. 16 and lasted five days. During the trial, the airport units were able to collect 1,740 lbs. (0.87 tons) of compostable materials, which equated to nearly 350 lbs. per day. The overall goal of the ABIA sustainability program is to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill and increase the amount of waste being diverted into other streams through recycling and composting.
“This compost program is crucial to the airport achieving its goal of 31 percent overall diversion rate in 2017,” Williams said. “Our participation in the trial, as well as a waste audit performed last year, have been included in the overall sustainability reports back to the airport’s executive team.”
To implement the composting procedures, Williams worked with the airport to distribute 30 six-and-a-half-gallon buckets to Delaware North’s locations throughout the airport. Buckets were placed in back-of-house prep areas to collect pre-consumer food waste such as vegetables, fruit, coffee grounds, meat, dairy and even paper products. The buckets were collected and emptied into designated drop-off areas where they were transported to the airport’s waste transfer station by the disposal contractor. Once enough organic waste was accumulated, it was shipped to the contractor’s facilities to process into compost.
“We’ve received several comments from passengers on the concourse while performing compost pickups,” Williams added. “All of the comments were positive and supportive of seeing a composting program at the airport, which really shows you how much customers embrace sustainability.”
The program has been such a success that Williams and the team plan to continue it and further add to the airport’s long-term sustainability goals. If the pilot program’s results remain consistent, it could result in 127,750 lbs. (nearly 64 tons) of organic waste being composted and diverted from landfills each year.
PHOTO CAPTION: Delaware North’s “Green Team” at the Austin airport strikes a pose. Back Row: Brian Kumrow, J.P. Williams, Cesar Bombardelli, Dora Burke, Chris Walls and Stephen Batlin. Front Row: Fernando Sepulveda, Cecilia Sanchez, Amy McKibbin, Ashley Birkner, Arcelia Solis, Michelle Ortiz, Natasha Shaw, Emechainea McAfee, Christine Cheyne, Leo Lopez and William Palmer.