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Airlines ranked by consumer groups for recycling

Ever drink a soda on a plane? Plenty of people do, and most of the resulting waste, coupled with waste made on the ground, is not recycled.

Nearly 500 million pounds could be recycled and isn't, including half of the waste made in flight, according to a report from Green America's responsibleshopper.org.

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Some airlines do some recycling, the group says. But not enough. There's lots of food that can be composted and lost of wrapping getting thrown away.

The group ranks airlines (from best to worst): Delta Airlines, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, Continental, Jet Blue, American, British Airways, Air Tran, United and US Airways.

"For concerned consumers looking to spend their travel dollars wisely, airline waste may be the ultimate example of 'what goes up must come down,'" said Victoria Kreha, Green America Responsible Shopper lead researcher, in a statement. "The good news is that airlines are starting to pay attention to recycling; the bad news is that they have a long way to go to improve the situation.

The report looked at five areas: variety in waste recycled, future in-flight recycling plans, size of in-flight recycling program, education/encouragement of employees in onboard recycling programs, other in-flight sustainability initiatives and provides overall rankings.  No one got a grade higher than a B- overall.

About three-quarters of in-flight waste is recyclable, but only 20 percent is recycled, the group says.

The stuff tossed amounts to enough aluminum cans to build 58 Boeing 747 jets, and enough newspaper and magazines to cover a football field 230 meters deep. Recycling would also create jobs, the group says, citing a report that recycling creates six times as many jobs as sending stuff to the landfill. And some airlines aren't even living up to their own recycling policies, the group found.

Baltimore Sun file photo of recycling bins at BWI airport/Jed Kirschbaum

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