Airports generate a lot of waste. Everything is disposable, clothes are scrapped to meet weight requirements, travelers eat on the run and discard half their food. But in North Carolina, at one of the busiest airports in the U.S., they are serious about recycling, reducing and reusing. Everyday twenty-five tons of trash cascade onto a conveyor belt where it is hand-sorted by a dozen employees. Recyclables are bundled and sold. Discarded clothing is laundered and donated. Food waste is composted on site with the help of a couple (million) critters. All the organic matter is transferred into a series of 50-foot long beds where 1.9 million worms get to work producing fertilizer for airport landscaping.
In four short months, the Charlotte airport has reduced the amount of trash going to the landfill by 70%. Turning trash into worm poop might seem like funny business for an airport, as Rose points out, "Charlotte officials sure did as they debated the $1.2 million it cost to launch the program. But they're not laughing now: The airport expects to be making money off its trash in five years."