Officials at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) say the airport has moved closer to their goal of having 70 percent solid waste diversion by 2015, with 66.5 percent of the solid waste collected at the airport being diverted from landfills this year.

LAX collected and recycled 20,703 tons of its waste, while diverting 867 tons to other uses, airport officials said. These diverted uses include the reuse of wooden pallets, cardboard, office paper, scrap metal and donations of packaged and prepared food from airline caterers to local food banks.

The airport’s recycling program has been in existence since 1992. The State of California requires all cities to implement waste reduction programs and divert 70 percent of trash from landfills by 2020.

“We are committed to implementing initiatives that help us surpass our own and the City of Los Angeles’ 70 percent waste diversion target by 2015, and support the city’s efforts to become a zero waste city by 2030,” LAX Construction and Maintenance Services Assistant Director David Waldner said. “It looks like we will achieve our target in the very near future.”

In 2007, LAX’s diversion rate was 65 percent, compared to the city’s overall rate of 62 percent. LAX’s program provides free recycling to its tenants at no cost and visits airport offices for recyclable items such as cardboard, wood pallets, office paper and plastics. In the terminals and the Transportation Security Administration screening location, bins are placed near trash cans to encourage the traveling public to recycle.

LAX’s Construction and Maintenance Services recycling section’s staff of 12 maintenance laborers, heavy duty truck operators and equipment operators work seven days a week to collect and process the large accumulation of recyclables at LAX each day.

Waste materials are collected and brought to the recycling transfer facility at the airport. From there, items are sorted, baled, or loaded into containers and sent to area recyclers for further processing.

“Recycling is an international process and a portion of the material we collect is sent overseas,” said Tom McHugh, airport maintenance superintendent, who is in charge of LAX’s Recycling Section. “The remainder is recycled and manufactured into various products in the U.S.”

Green materials such as grass clippings and tree branches are recycled into compost at the city’s joint processing center. Recyclable materials are also used in the airport’s own construction projects.

More than 75 percent of the construction and demolition waste from the current Tom Bradley International Terminal improvements and baggage screening facilities program at LAX are either being recycled or salvaged, officials note. During the reconstruction of LAX’s South Airfield Improvement Project, completed in 2008, almost all of the concrete and other materials from the demolition of one of its runways was recycled.

McHugh also noted that cardboard and scrap metal from the airport are frequently sent to various Asian countries for reuse.

“Much of the cardboard is used to make boxes that hold various products and materials that are sent back to the U.S.,” he said.