Hartsfield-Jackson moves forward with recycling, composting facility

5:10 p.m Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 Business
October 18, 2016 - Atlanta - Liza Milagro, the airport’s senior sustainability leader, at the site of the future Green Acres airport composting and recycling facility. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has selected a firm to develop a recycling and composting facility on airport grounds, moving forward on a project in the works for years.

The Atlanta airport has chosen Green Energy and Development Inc. to develop the facility it calls Green Acres on 30 acres of property on the south side of the airport in Clayton County.

Hartsfield-Jackson officials say it will be the first fully enclosed recycling and composting facility at an airport, and they expect it to be up and running in early 2019. It’s part of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s initiative to make Hartsfield-Jackson a leading “green” airport. But the airport struggled in its search to find the right company.

Green Energy and Development Inc., based in Winnebago, Minn., was one of six firms to compete for the contract, along with Cash Development LLC, Randolph & Company LLC, Columbia Technology LLC, Multiplex LLC and Sun State Organics LLC.

Airport officials are seeking Atlanta City Council approval for a 30-year lease with Green Energy and Development Inc., with two five-year renewal options. Green Energy and Development will pay up to $215,883 in annual rent.

It’s not the first airport to move forward on green initiatives. Chicago O’Hare has done some composting and recycling, and also has an on-airport apiary; a grazing herd of goats, sheep, llamas and burros; a vegetated roof on the air traffic control tower administration building; and an aeroponic garden in the terminal.

But in Charlotte, an airport recycling facility ran into problems with a worm composting farm due to cost overruns, equipment malfunctions and contractor issues, according to media reports.

Hartsfield-Jackson officials want to recycle waste generated at the world’s busiest airport and compost chipped yard trimmings from the city’s public works department.

A recycling program the Atlanta airport launched and trumpeted in 2009 failed because the recyclable material was too contaminated with garbage.

Since 2012, only about 5 percent of waste generated at the Atlanta airport’s terminals and concourses has been recycled, even though 85 percent of the waste stream is recyclable or compostable.

It has been a year since airport officials launched their fourth attempt to find a company to develop and operate a facility. The first attempt was canceled to revise the requirements. The second yielded no qualified responses. The third was canceled due to incorrectly completed forms submitted by firms competing for the project.

While the project was delayed, Hartsfield-Jackson officials were attempting to move forward on new requirements for airport restaurants to stop using Styrofoam and to use compostable materials.

But they got pushback from airport restaurateurs because Green Acres was delayed.

“I believe it is foolhardy to implement the compostable packaging at the airport until we have a facility to take it to,” Georgia Restaurant Association CEO Karen Bremer told the Atlanta city council transportation committee in August. “It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of money.”

Last month, Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Roosevelt Council told the committee that the airport would delay the composting requirement until Dec. 29.

David Pekoske says there are high-tech changes coming to several airports that should cut down security lines.
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