US (TX): DFW Airport is turning passengers’ food into fertilizer to achieve carbon neutrality

According to airport calculations, DFW's terminals generate about 32,000 tons of solid waste a year. And the airport says about a quarter of that trash is organic waste, or food, which isn’t really waste.
“Food is the single largest item in the American waste stream,” said Lauren Clarke, founder and CEO of Turn, a composting company based in Dallas. “That’s really a shame.”

Lorena Garcia’s Tapas Y Cocina in Terminal A is the first airport restaurant for Clarke’s staff to train in. They are teaching airport kitchen workers to compost. Turn trainer Lisa Roark, right, trains Dameon Harris to compost inside the kitchen of Lorena Garcia's at DFW Airport. “Nothing is wasted here,” explained Lisa Roark, Turn’s trainer and market manager. She demonstrated composting to Lorena Garcia’s general manager, Dameon Harris.

The goal is to throw as few things in a traditional trash can as possible. The peel from an avocado, seeds and cores from bell peppers, and dark, unsavory pieces of lettuce get tossed instead into a special bucket provided by Turn. The airport said the composting efforts by the kitchen staff at Lorena Garcia’s alone are having an impact: more than 250 pounds of trash is being diverted from local landfills every week.

DFW was the first airport in North America and the largest in the world to achieve carbon neutrality. In 2020, the airport received a United Nations Global Climate Action Award for its renewable natural gas efforts. All of the airport’s electricity comes from wind.

The airport’s sustainability efforts began with an initial focus on air quality, Horton said, but the efforts have expanded. “We can positively and negatively affect the neighbors around us, so it’s our responsibility to be a good neighbor,” said Horton. He added that skeptics who think adopting green practices cost too much should look at DFW Airport as proof that environmentally friendly policies are not the enemy of business. “We’ve saved more than 50% of our energy costs in the last 15 years,” Horton said. “That’s over $20 million.”   

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