Charlotte Airport Gets Serious About Recycling,
1:00 pm
Fri November 4, 2011

Charlotte Airport Gets Serious About Recycling, Worms Will Help

Those recycling bins in the Charlotte airport terminals are misleading.

Right now everything in them goes to the landfill, because the bins are "contaminated" with other trash, says Airport Housekeeping Manager Bob Lucas.

"That was our first effort. It didn't work," says Lucas.

He's given up on getting passengers to sort their trash. Now the plan is a $1.1 million facility at the airport to do the sorting for them. Lucas says it'll trim the airport's landfill fees by 75 percent.

The equipment is being installed in an old kitchen at the airport. Plastic, glass, paper and such will be sifted from the 10,000 tons of trash the airport generates each year and sold to recyclers. The leftover food scraps and other compostable material will be turned over to an army of new airport employees.

Worms.

The airport is buying 300 pounds of earthworms that will multiply into the 1,000 pounds Lucas says he'll need to handle all the airport's organic waste. We're talking tens of thousands of worms. They'll be in a giant, enclosed bed with special lighting and temperatures to keep them happy and hungry.

Lucas says the airport is spending about $250,000 on the worm side of the recycling facility. A more traditional, open-air, compost pile might be cheaper, but would attract flocks of birds that are a hazard around airplanes.

Plus, worm castings are valuable.

"'Castings' is a fancy word for worm poop," explained Lucas at a meeting of the Airport's Advisory Committee on Thursday. "This actually sells to organic farms about $.75 to $1 per pound. It's a very high, in-demand organic fertilizer."

The airport will use some of the fertilizer on its own acreage and sell the rest.

As Lucas outlined his plan to the Airport Advisory Committee, the giggles were irrepressible. Apparently the mention of "worm poop" can even turn professional adults into snickering school kids.

And Lucas says he's already had requests from groups of actual school kids to tour the facility once it's up and running in February 2012.

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