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Business Traveller

Travel and the Environment from the Industry's Perspective. Are the Travel Industry's Eco Policies Doing Any Good; Turning Waste Into Wine; Are Hotels as Green as They Seem? Is our Recycled E-waste Doing More Harm than Good; Moto Art Breaths New Life into Old Planes.

Aired April 08, 2009 - 13:30   ET


RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to "CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER." I'm Richard Quest, this month reporting from the Grundon Waste Recycling Facility outside London.

Today's program is all about travel and the environment. But we are not looking at it from the traveler's point of view. Instead, we're taking a look at the industry prospective.

For instance, this truck has just come from Gatwick Airport. It's full of the cabin waste from airlines. So on this program, we're going to be examining what the industry itself is doing, the eco initiatives that are helping them turn themselves green.

Coming up, from composting waste to conserving energy, are the travel industry's eco policies doing any good?

And waste not, want not, breathing new life into old planes.

What happens now is this truck, which arrives from Gatwick Airport, full of cabin waste, the dry stuff that we all leave, the magazines, the books, all of that sort of thing (ph), is now going to be picked out and the recycling fun begins.

All right.

Grundon collects and recycles cabin waste from Heathrow, Gatwick and Southampton Airports. For the airport operated by BAA, the long- term goal is to prevent any waste going to landfills. They've set a target date of 2010.

It's an impressive site, watching all this airline waste going into the recycling process.

The industry is very much aware that it needs to do more to reduce its impact on mother earth, as Adrian Fineghan discovered from the Aviation Environmental Summit in Geneva.


ADRIAN FINIGHAN, BUSINESS TRAVELLER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three-hundred and eighty delegates and one agenda -- reducing aviations contribution to CO2 emissions, which is around 3 percent. Even though it seems like a small amount, public perception is that it's too much.

The industry is doing something. It's still trying to find its biofuel feet and ramping up production of fuel-efficient aircraft. Contentious issues, however, remain.

WILLIE WALSH, CEO, BRITISH AIRWAYS: There's some discussion. Often heated debates, and not everybody agrees. I know there are some within the industry who feel that the airline industry should not be required to participate in an emissions trading scheme, for example, until we have a single European sky, because they feel that we are forced to emit CO2 that is unnecessary because of an infrastructure problem.

FINIGHAN: By 2013, 100 European airports will be operating a continuous dissent approach. Planes will fly a more direct route to the airport with less engine power on a smoother, shorter gradient instead of the traditional longer-stepped approach.

SAS was the first airline to introduce green landings in 2006.

NIELS EIRIK NERTUN, SAS: We have conducted the 4,000th continuous dissent at (INAUDIBLE) as a test period, saving hundred kilo fuel per landing. That means 300 kilos of CO2. And if you multiply that by 4,000, yes, it matters.

FINIGHAN: Biofuels can also cut CO2 emissions and could be 20 to 30 percent cheaper than the conventional fuel jet A1.

CHRISTIAN DUMAS, AIRBUS: For me, the best avenue right now is biofuels. And (INAUDIBLE) is that it can compete on every plane, even the existing ones. Because the main problem with new technologies is that they will be introduced slowly because you do not -- I mean, you do not replace 15,000 aircraft over night. With biofuels, you replace all carriers over night once you get the quantities.

FINIGHAN: Airbus was the first to test alternative jet fuel, natural gas to liquid. Other airlines have already tested algae and oil from the jatropha plant and the babassu nut.

SAMUEL ELFASSY, AIR CANADA: The game changer in fact in the second-generation biofuels I believe will play larger role. The question is whether aircraft manufacture -- not -- engine manufacturers right now can create engines to deal with those new generation biofuels, which they can, in our discussions with them.

FINIGHAN: For Cathay Pacific, the problem is that different countries have different priorities.

DOMINIC PURVIS, CATHAY PACIFIC: In the states, where there are many airports which are actually in the city centers, noise is a huge issue. In Europe, there is a massive awareness of the emissions problem, from aviation in general. But in Asia, you've got many airports that are actually brand new builds. So you've got them, for example, in Hong Kong at Chek Lap Kok, it's a special site that was actually basically dredged out of the sea to create the airport.

FINIGHAN: The responsibility, of course, doesn't just lie with airlines. The airports themselves say they're doing all they can on the ground before any flying begins.

JAKE SCHMIDT, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: In the U.S., we looked at the amount of aluminum that was thrown away. And it was equivalent to 58 747s per year -- could be built with the amount of aluminum that was thrown away. So that's pretty significant when you're talking about the airline industry.

The airports are a mixed bag. A number of airports that are moving to deal with their waste and deal with the recycling, and a number are not. So we have good positive stories and some negative stories across the board.

FINIGHAN: Seattle-Tacoma International is setting an example. The airport saves almost $200,000 a year from recycling 1300 tons of material, and converting 43 tons of cooking grease into biodiesel.

From January this year, Munich Airport started charging airlines that have louder, older aircraft an emission landing fee.

Singapore's Changi was voted World's Most Eco-friendly Airport 2008 at the World Travel Awards for its design of Terminal Three.

(on camera): When you think about it, a summit like this is remarkable. Companies that are traditionally in competition with one another coming together to try to solve an issue that affects them all.

(voice-over): And for B.A., it's important for the public to understand what the industry is trying to achieve.

WALSH: There are people out there who would suggest to you that if we stopped, you know, short-haul flying, that's the solution. It's not. Most of the flying that we do that contributes to these global emissions are long haul. But there is no alternative to flying. And we've got to recognize that aviation contributes significantly to economic growth and economic development in the current environment. We've got to hope that aviation will continue to do that.

FINIGHAN: The industry is expected to lose around $4.7 billion this year. Despite the economic climate, the will to work together on green polices is there. And once all parts converge, the way will be clear.


QUEST: Coming up after the break, turning waste into wine. But are hotels as green as they seem?


QUEST: Oh! Love it! Now, we know we're clearly recycling airline waste.

And welcome back to "CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER," where I've got me marching orders, and I'm now in the recycling business. I've been told to look for the plastic, the tons of plastic that come off airlines from the cabin.

What do I do with the socks?

Now the main thing that you -- that come off planes are what?

PAUL FAULKNER, GRUNDON WASTE RECYLING FACILITY: Mainly, paper and it's in the way of brochures and newspaper, a lot of brochures and newspapers. And we get comparable packaging. And we get medium and steel pans (ph), as well as the plastic bottles.

QUEST: How many processes will the -- will the waste -- the waste go through?

FAULKNER: It goes through seven processes. The first process is obviously the weigh bridge. It's then tipped on the ground, as we've seen. And it's loaded onto conveyers. And the conveyers go through screens into the picking stations.

QUEST: So by the time it comes up here, this is the last stage really?

FAULKNER: Absolutely. A lot of the (INAUDIBLE).

QUEST: The waste coming down this line isn't just from airlines. There is, of course, household and hotel waste as well.

The hotels tell us that they do a lot to recycle, to reuse and to reduce their impact on the environment. But Ayesha Durgahee explains, how much are they really doing?


AYESHA DURGAHEE, BUSINESS TRAVELER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We can sleep on pillows made from recycled plastic, eat from cutlery made from potato and donate money to help protect a Rain Forest. The list goes on and on, eco initiatives that hotels are creating to reflect our concern for the environment.

CHRISTOPHER ELLIOT, TRAVEL JOURNALIST: They're doing it because everyone else is doing it. They don't want to get left behind. And they're also doing it because they think it's going to be profitable for them.

You have these cynical marketers that are coming in and saying, "How can we get these green travelers to come to our property"? And so they're doing the very bare minimum that they can to appeal to these travelers. But it really is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

DURGAHEE: It seems some hotels are scrambling too quickly onto the eco bandwagon. And that's the problem.

LYNDALL De MARCO, INTERNATIONAL TOURISM PARTNERSHIP: I don't think there's enough education on how a 24-hour-a-day business filled with bedrooms with 35 areas of business within one building can look at environmental impact. I don't think there's enough education. And I don't think they all know what to do. It's not even being addressed in universities and hotel management schools.

DURGAHEE: There isn't even an international environmental standard or hotel eco index that we can refer to.

We all know about that little card telling us to be eco friendly and to reuse our towels. What we don't know is whether or not the energy saved is any better than recycling waste.

For instance, from kitchen to composting, food scrapes from the Marriott Hotel in San Francisco eventually end up here in the Sanscret's (ph) Vineyard in the Napa Valley. The wine that's produced is sold back at the hotel.

RANDY NIELSON, MARRIOT, SAN FRANCISCO: Approximately, 30 percent of this hotel, Marriot Hotel's, waste ends up in the compost. That's about 10,000 pounds a week or 5 tons a week that we capture for the compost.

In a week, we generate between 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of which 10 percent or 10,000 pounds is composted. Another 10,000-plus pounds a week is recycled, bottles, paper, plastic bottles, cardboard. Averaging 13 percent of our total garbage is left over by the time in recycling compost.

We close the loop. Here, we're putting out the compost and it goes out to the vineyards and then the wines come back to our hotel that have grown from this compost. So it's very important that that whole loop is closed.

DURGAHEE: At $65 a bottle, do we really want to spend that amount to offset our eco guilt?

(on camera): In this economic climate where the main priority is room rate, it's not expensive wines that's off the list.

Even if a hotel is selling mineral water for $10 that goes to a good cause, many of us will be turning on the tap instead.

ALLYSON STEWART-ALLEN, INTERNATIONAL MARKETING PARTNERS: The environment is temporarily perhaps taking a back seat, you could argue. But that's just because we're in this economic cycle. When it rebounds -- and we know it will rebound -- the environment will be a hugely, fantastically important differentiator.

It's much more important now that you have the opportunity to innovate that you actually take the lead and you demonstrate to the customer, "Look, we're actually being greener than you think we are. We're doing some innovative things."

DURGAHEE (voice-over): Innovate, not inundate with quirky initiatives that go beyond re-using towels. Hotels shouldn't give skeptics more ammunition.

STEWART-ALLEN: Some hotels will just say, "Oh, of course, we're terribly green. We do certain things." But actually, maybe they don't do the things that they promise they'll do. So for some, it will be hollow. So a little bit of scratching beneath the surface, doing a little bit of research.

One day we will have an eco index that let's you compare apples with apples, and then you know which hotel is actually living that promise and doing things tangibly, and which are just putting a gloss on it.

DURGAHEE: And until that happens, those customers looking for a hotel that's really green will continue to be left in the dark.


QUEST: After the break, helping countries or contaminating them? Is our recycled e-waste doing more harm than good? And from this, to this, how these planes flew all the way to the boardroom.


QUEST: These bales weigh one ton and contain 14,000 tin cans. And over here, all that newspaper ends up in big bales to be recycled. This is the most basic of product recycling.

But what about those high-end products like mobile phones and computers? As Christian Purefoy now explains from Nigeria, we certainly recycle them, but there's a positive and a negative aspects to all that waste.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, BUSINESS TRAVELLER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We can't keep out hands off them, mobile phones, Blackberries, laptops. When it's time to upgrade, we'll happily hand them over to be recycled without really knowing their final destination.

Well, they could end up in places like this, a dump site in Lagos, Nigeria, an electronic landfill. TVs, computers, laptops shipped over for resale but often discarded as rubbish. And the waste is often burned to get at the reusable metals like copper wire, which in turn releases toxic metals and chemicals harmful to the local population.

A U.S.-based environmental group, BASEL Action Network, warns it's a mounting environmental disaster.

OLADEIE OSIBANJO, DIRECTOR, BASEL NIGERIA: If we don't control it, there will be serious contamination and exposure of a large population to heavy metals from e-waste because it's a huge volume of waste we are talking about. And it is spreading.

PUREFOY: This problem is now being acknowledged by the Lagos government and charities alike. The Nigerian government has ordered a crackdown on harmful electronic imports and is supporting plans for the building of a recycling plant in the region.

(on camera): But many of the computers shipped into Nigeria don't end up on the dump sites. Second-hand computers and monitors and keyboards shipped in, in boxes like this, are distributed across Nigeria and end up in I.T. training centers like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, so click on this.

PUREFOY (voice-over): The Iya Abubakar Resource Center in Nigeria's traditional Muslim north trains anyone, from student to businessmen and women. They import computers, but from charities like Computer Aid in the U.K. to ensure they are reliable.

This site, says the director, cheap and second-hand they may be, but with the education and business opportunities they are providing, waste they are not.

AISHA HUSSEIN, DIRECTOR, IYA ABUBAKAR RESOURCE CENTER: Because once you empower a person, you don't contemplate it as a waste. You empower the person socially, financially. That shouldn't be referred to as waste, because you have given that person a life.

PUREFOY: Charity, Computer Aid in London, wants to make sure that the electronics you recycle don't end up on the rubbish heap.

TONY ROBERTS, CEO, COMPUTER AID INTERNATIONAL: It's really important that we're not just transferring Europe's scrap and dumping it in Africa. So this facility here acts as a filtering mechanism to make sure that any old or redundant equipment is recycled in the U.K. And that any high-quality, high-specification computers that can be reused in business colleges, universities and community organizations, in emerging economies, are sent for that purpose.

PUREFOY: For the business traveler, it's about knowing where your waste it going.

So next time you recycle computers, phones or other electronics, you know for sure it's helping the environment and the communities that live in it.


QUEST: The range and scope of recycling is extraordinary -- tin cans, plastic, cardboard, paper, clothing, to be sure. It seems there's always someone who will take away our old rubbish.

In the Mojave Desert in California, there's an artist who will even take away your old aircraft and turn them into something brand new.


DAVE HALL, CO-FOUNDER, MOTO ART: Hi, my name's Dave Hall. I'm with Moto Art. Today, we're up in the Mojave bone yard, where old airplanes come to die. We're here to get some old airplane parts that we turn into beautiful pieces of functional art.

When Don (ph) and I come up here, we look for aircraft. We use very recognizable airplane parts, stabilizers, engine cells or engine Cowlings, the fuselage, the windows. We even use the galley cart to make them into mobile mini bars.

It's heartbreaking to see these planes that serviced our country for years and years, decades, to be crunched up and destroyed. And it gives us a little -- you know, a little piece of heart to the fact that we're able to recycle this and give it a second life.

Let's get to work.

This is a 737 aircraft that we're cutting into. The airline is called Tropic. It has a Mexican flag on it. Not an airline that I'm really experienced with, but it certainly looks cool. And so we're going to take about a 10-foot section out of this.

This is probably the most fun part of the whole job is getting it off the aircraft.

All right, I guess we're going down?


HALL: Look at that. Look at that.

How's that for an emergency exit?


Well, the next step, now that we've got this fuselage off the aircraft, we're going to load it up, tie it down to our trailer, get back to our studio in Los Angeles. And then the next step is really fabricating the piece.

In the back here, we try to keep most of the sanding outside of the studio because it's just a very dirty job. But out here is where a lot of the labor happens to make ourselves look at beautiful as it does. It sand, sand, sand. Sometimes hundreds of hours before we even try to polish something out.

That L-1011 Cowling that we saw at the bone yard -- believe it or not, this is the same piece. This is after we get down with the fabrication of it. We have clocked in probably 220 man-hours. It's taken 10 to 11 days to finish this. This is a great reception desk, perfect for any big corporation.

A price like this -- for a unit of this size, you're looking anywhere from $22,000 to $25,000, depending on the options.

Behind us, we have our DC-9 wing desk, one of our most successful series that we have in Moto Art. We introduced this back in 2002. It's still one of our best-selling pieces.

This is our newest line that we've introduced to Moto Art. This is the 747 jetliner bed. What we've taken is a half of a 747 engine Cowling and we've got an 84-inch diameter round mattress and we've made a great looking bed for this. So from an aircraft in the old bone yard, to walla, you've got a finished product.


QUEST: Well, that puts the lid on it. More recycled product heading off to be reused.

And that's "CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER" for this month. I'm Richard Quest at the Grundon Recycling Facility outside London.

Remember the motto: Reduce, reuse and recycle.

And as always, wherever your travels may take you, I hope it's profitable. I'll see you next month.