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Charlotte Airport Scraps Recycling Partner

Julie Rose
Charlotte airport trash sorted by hand. 2013 FILE PHOTO

Three years ago, Charlotte-Douglas Airport officials celebrated the opening of a new trash sorting facility. The goal was to turn a profit on recyclables within five years. It’s not turning out that way.

Charlotte Douglas Airport, which is a division of the city, spent $1.2 million in 2012 to build the single-stream waste facility. It separates recyclable materials from trash so they can be sold. The plan was for the airport to split recycling profits with a private company that would manage the sorting facility. 

Last July, after 13 months of operation, the airport started looking for a new company to run the plant. The company they chose, Flint River Recycling, ran the facility for fewer than six months before the airport terminated the 29-month deal earlier this month. The president of Illinois-based Flint River, Geoff Petzel, says Charlotte Douglas was paying his company about $142,000 a month. He said selling the recyclables only covered about 10 percent of the cost of sorting and then having the trash hauled off. He said he expected to make about $7,500 a month, but he never turned a profit.

The city council agenda for Monday includes a request to approve a one year deal with Waste Management for less than half of what it was paying Petzel’s company – and Waste Management will not be using the airport’s sorting plant.

An airport spokeswoman declined  further comment, citing potential legal action for the airport and Flint River.