Last weekend I flew to Austin, Texas to spend some quality time with my aunt, uncle and grandfather. I had the pleasure of having my three-and-a-half hour layover at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. On top of that, my flight was delayed, which allowed me to maximize my time for exploration in this uncharted territory. I hadn’t even crossed over a time zone and I already felt jet lagged. I was so hungry and it wasn’t even noon, but nevertheless, I walked down the concourse like a zombie shark, scoping out my best food options.
Immediately, my nostrils were overwhelmed by the smell of fried chicken sandwiches and biscuits, but I refused the allure of Chick-Fil-A. My second offer beckoned — Burgers, BBQ and Brew. Although this was a tempting proposal, I didn’t want to go to a sit-down restaurant and have an entire table to myself. Alas, Atlanta Bread Company was my third and final offer, and I had to settle.
After indulging in my Caesar salad alongside a hearty baguette, I was a happy camper. I walked over to a large, rectangular black box that I perceived to be a trash can and pushed my leftovers against the door.
With the voice of a robot crunching down on crispy nuts and bolts, I knew that this wasn’t a force to be reckoned with. I came upon the realization that the trash can opening was immobile. And fluent in robot. However, this rectangular apparatus flat-out rejected of my Atlanta Bread Company trash and I was puzzled. I should’ve ordered Chick-Fil-A.
This looks like a trash can and is in a prime location where a trash can should be — is it not a trash can? After looking around all angles of this apparatus, I realized that it was busy compacting its contents, which explains why the door was locked. Once it was silent, I pushed the door open and proceeded to drop my lunchtime remnants into this box of doom.
I let my naïveté take over as I continued to be marveled by this trashcan. I stood back and watched traveler after traveler sacrifice their leftovers to face complete obliteration.
So why was this contraption so impeccable? I’ve never had the honor of having a trash compacter in my house, so seeing one out in the wild was interesting in itself. Another reason is that it didn’t even smell like a trash can. Since this trash can door spends a short portion of its life open, it reduces the rancid smells that our olfactory system avoids.
At this point, only one hour of my layover has passed and I was well aware that I had two-and-a-half more to kill. I decided to do some research.
Apparently, my child-like curiosity towards this trash can is not unique. This contraption is called SmartPack Automatic Trash Compacter, and with one signal, it alerts employees that it’s full, saving time and money for the airport.
There are more than 50 of these trash compacters in the airport, one placed in front of each gate. I was completely amazed that Atlanta was taking the initiative to make such a positive impact. According to Harmony Enterprises, the use of SmartPack Automatic Trash Compacter reduces trash-related costs by up to 50 percent due to its shrewd ability to fit in more trash. Atlanta also took the extra step to earn silver certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
This is just one example of the sustainability initiatives that airports like Hartsfield-Jackson take part in worldwide. Every day, mass amounts of people utilize air transit and of course, and this burns more fossil fuels than desirable. However, the instillation of these efficient trash compactors is a step in the right direction.
This just puts into perspective how much trash we produce on a daily basis and the little steps that we can take to make a difference. Sure, putting in 50 trash compacters into an Atlanta airport doesn’t seem like an enthralling accomplishment, but that’s 50 trash bins that are filled to their maximum capacity and are silently raising awareness about living a sustainable lifestyle, changing people like you and me.
At this point in time, it’s a daunting task to resort to renewable fuels to power jet engines, so baby steps is what will be the most effective with airport transit. So think again before you dispose of your lunch, because you will be surprised at what you can learn.
Jennifer Ruth is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying environmental analysis and policy. She can be reached at email@example.com.