When it comes to flying, go with the flow

Environmental cues are a big part of encouraging behavior change. This is especially true when it comes to waste management. The flying public is an active participant in helping us effectively manage our waste streams at PDX. Most people have become accustomed to separating out recyclables and composting is becoming more commonplace, especially in Portland, but what about separating out liquids?

Imagine the last time you flew out of the airport – you were probably focusing on getting your documents in order, removing your shoes, taking your laptop out of your bag and then, “what am I going to do with this bottle of water I only drank half of?” In 2008, we introduced our first liquid collection stations at PDX to help remove liquids from our waste stream. The stations prevent liquid-filled containers from being sent to waste handlers, reduce costs in janitorial services and allow passengers to reuse their container post-security. Though the stations have diverted 100 tons of liquid from the landfill since their installation, we had a sense that they might be inconspicuous in this busy section of the airport.

With help from the Port of Portland Technical Assistance Project, we stood out at each security check-point for two hours and polled passengers coming through. Did they use the liquid collection station? Did they see it at all? What would make it more noticeable? What we discovered was that although the stations had collected 100 tons of liquid in the last four years, they actually had a fairly low rate of use and many people did not see them at all. Polled passengers recommended bigger stations, brighter colors and images that encourage people to stop and look. Earlier this summer, we rolled out redesigned stations, shown below. The redesign was based almost entirely on the public feedback we received. We are currently in the process of collecting six months of data to gauge the effectiveness of the new design. 

Also, be sure to check out the station featured in Airport Magazine.