Security worries trash recycling of banned liquids

Even in green San Francisco, security concerns trumped recycling, at least in the short-term, as airport officials ordered into the trash liquids and their containers confiscated under new security regulations.

Figures are not yet available as to the exact tonnage of water bottles, toothpaste tubes and shampoo containers relegated to the trash at airport security checkpoints Thursday, airport duty manager Dan D’Innocente said Friday. However, South San Francisco Scavenger Co., which picks up the airport’s trash, had to make at least two extra trips just to pick up the discarded containers.

“Everything that was confiscated yesterday was picked up and taken away,” D’Innocente said Friday. He said the airport does not have a plan to start recycling what it confiscates. Today, he said, there was much less material confiscated as passengers learned the new restrictions.

South San Francisco Scavenger President Doug Button could not be reached for comment Friday.

D’Innocente said there is no policy in place on how to dispose of the newly identified contraband because the new security measures are still in their infancy. “Yesterday was on a minute-by-minute basis,” he said.

On Friday, orange bins with black printing that warned of wet floors — usually used when cleaning the airport's floors — were set up around the security checkpoints. D’Innocente said they were set up Thursday to accommodate the bottles, tubesand jars that passengers suddenly had to throw out.

Duty-free shops remain open in the airport, and passengers can still buy liquid products because the products stay in the hands of airport employees until the passengers board their planes.

Duty-free sales are estimated at about $26 billion a year globally and $7 billion in the United States. Liquor and perfume make up anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of sales, according to the International Association of Duty-Free Stores.

While the airport has banned all outside liquids from coming through the security checkpoints, it has not banned their sale inside. Concession stands inside and outside the ticketed area continue to sell drinks and other liquids. Passengers who buy liquids inside the ticketed area may not take them on their planes, but D’Innocente said airlines must enforce that ban.

Airlines must keep their security levels at an Orange Alert, in conjunction with the national level, D’Innocente said, but they may exceed that level if they wish. British Airways was operating at a Red Alert level Friday, D’Innocente said. Passengers in Britain were only allowed to bring with them the clothes they are wearing and a clear plastic bag containing their necessary travel documents.

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