To manage waste, create a diversion!

Posted in: Aviation, Environmental


statue of man playing trumpetEach year, Mardi Gras brings over 1 million people (and their waste) into the city of New Orleans. Roughly 75 percent of plastic beads the United States imports from China go to New Orleans for this celebration. Louisiana’s 6.3 percent recycling rate is well below the EPA-reported national rate of 25.8 percent in 2015. Unfortunately, due to the lack of convenient recycling infrastructure, landfilling becomes the most economically viable option for most waste. However, innovative strategies are gaining traction in the state: local organizations such as Arc of Greater New Orleans place bins all around the city to collect Mardi Gras beads for repackaging and resale. This example reflects a wider national shift toward innovative waste diversion strategies.

Recycling has traditionally been the primary means of diverting waste. While recycling is important, now there are other strategies higher on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waste management hierarchy. Due to retractions in recycling markets, waste diversion is shifting toward source reduction and reuse strategies. This has been driven by the additional expenses associated with the current realities of recycling logistics and material market demands.

woman wearing mardi gras hat and beads
Mardi Gras beads are being recycled as part of New Orleans’s efforts to address waste generated at local events

Recently I attended the Resource Recycling Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana which discussed these issues. Manufacturers, distributors, government entities, consultants, haulers, and waste solution companies all come together to share ideas about how to best address diversion of waste from the landfill. Zero waste is a concept that focuses on how to redesign materials for reuse instead of disposal. Waste diversion, especially zero waste, is attainable through partnerships.

At Mead & Hunt, we have the opportunity to strive for zero waste. Internally, offices can explore options to reduce and reuse materials used for daily operations such as our recent Zero Waste open house in Bloomington, Minnesota. Collaboration with our vendors and local waste or recycling organizations can optimize our company’s landfill diversion.

Externally, we can all rethink planning, engineering, architecture, and construction projects with zero waste in mind. Morgan Turner, our in-house senior waste diversion specialist, is a certified TRUE Zero Waste Advisor who provides steps for waste diversion for our projects. To date, we have created waste diversion plans at Detroit Metro, Jackson Hole, Milwaukee Mitchell, and other airports across the country. We have a proven track record of collaborating with clients to implement sustainable practices at their facilities.

Collaboration is key to successful waste diversion programs. Mead & Hunt is excited to support airports’ and other facilities’ efforts to reduce waste to landfill from construction and demolition, purchasing, infrastructure, and overall facility waste management. We understand the importance of this topic—waste diversion strategies benefit not only firms and clients but the wider community as well. We look forward to keeping up with industry changes that provide options for our clients to collaborate with innovative organizations to divert waste.


Anita Cobb

About the Author

Anita Cobb, MBA, is a waste management specialist motivated by the human elements of diversion. Anita is especially focused on the community impacts of effective waste strategies. She participates in waste audits and writes waste diversion plans for airports to aid in innovative approaches to resource management. When not managing waste, Anita likes to spend time with her kids, ride rollercoasters, and train to be the next big superhero.

Read more posts by Anita Cobb

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