Airport waste : all shall be one!

On the radio this morning an embarrassed Geneva airport spokesman had to explain why sorted waste became unsorted waste!

It was the radio programme On En Parle this morning, 6 November 2014, which reported that at some places in Geneva airport the waste which passengers had carefully put into the correct bins (Paper, PET etc.) was later collected by an employee who emptied and combined all the separate bins into a single large plastic bag. There was even a photograph, taken by a passenger who clearly felt cheated by this practice.

20141108_airport_waste.jpgAs usual, the ubiquitous airport spokesman Bernard Stämpfli  was asked to explain this rather strange behaviour. As I understand it, for technical reasons, related to being inside the security zone of the airport (in this case, inside one of the satellites) it was not possible to do what was done outside this security zone, namely go round with a large chariot for each type of waste. Instead, and partly because the passengers had apparently not generated much waste, it was decided to combine the waste, then take it downstairs to be re-sorted.

That same morning, as I went through Cornavin railway station, I noticed that as with three other large Swiss railway stations, there were exactly the same four separate bins for usage by the public. I also happened to be there exactly when one of them was being emptied by someone with a plastic bag of identical size to the one shown in the airport picture. In this case, there was no apparent combining of the different wastes: the plastic bag was used for just the one type of waste! However, by some strange logic, Bernard Stämpfli said that we should not think that the sorting having been done by the passengers was useless (Il ne faut pas penser que ce tri en amont est inutile).

Since the number of waste collection points inside the security zone must actually be reasonably high, it is questionable why the person collecting the waste could not go through this whole zone four times: once for each type of waste. Alternatively, if there really is not too much waste (the photo showed quite a lot!), just wait a bit longer between emptying cycles! The only reason that springs to my mind is the usual one of cost: it may be less costly to just do one satellite at a time, even at the expense of having to re-sort the lot downstairs.

In the latest Geneva airport publication, entitled "Sustainable Development Report 2014, there is an entire section headed "Encouraging Waste Sorting", in which it is said that "recyclable waste follows recycling streams". No doubt true, but it is arguable that this current practice does not create a good impression.

Perhaps someone from the airport could pay a visit to Cornavin railway station!

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