Recycling Questions

Every city that American Airlines services recycles! LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet strive for zero-waste kitchens. Catering companies in each city may have different regulations due to local requirements, but aluminum recycling happens everywhere. If a down-line kitchen is not able to recycle, due to space limitations or low volume, it is procedure to deadhead the cans back to a hub city where they can be recycled.


No! As long as they are returned to an insert, they will be recycled.

Unfortunately, no. Market bags are classified as trash, and strict USDA requirements state that catering is not allowed to retrieve cans from trash receptacles.

The monies from aluminum recycling are used to fund the Wings Foundation Flight Attendant Disaster Relief Fund (FADR). This fund assists flight attendants whose primary residence is damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster.

Yes! The USDA has a recycling exemption for aluminum on US inbound international flights. The cans must be in an insert and separated from carts containing trash. We encourage you to separate cans earmarked for recycling on outbound international flights too. This is good for our environment and helps us keep the habit of recycling!

The inserts must be placed into a cart exempt from fresh food or trash. Beverage or supply carts are best. A cart with shelf stable food items is acceptable.

Absolutely! In fact, it’s guaranteed those flights will be returning to a hub city where the cans will be recycled.

Yes! Those cans will remain in the carts overnight and return to a hub city the next day.

Yes, this does not affect the weight of the can for recycling.

All hub cities recycle! PHL and CLT utilize ‘Commissary Services’ to cater food and beverages on AA’s aircraft. American Airlines ramp employees build the beverage carts and only deliver these carts to the kitchen for servicing. Due to this procedure, all cans must return to the beverage carts to ensure recycling. Personnel will not ‘save’ or ‘set aside’ any inserts of cans that have been placed in the other carts or in the galley compartments. Unfortunately, aluminum cans may be disposed of rather than recycled if they are not placed back in the beverage cart on inbound flights to PHL and CLT.

If you do notice catering employees throwing away cans, please send an email to Wings with the flight number, date, city:

There are several factors that come into play. Aluminum is a commodity that varies along with the economy. Cans have become lighter and thinner over the years, so it takes more product to produce a pound of aluminum.

American Airlines has been recycling plastic and paper since 2012. Follow procedures in our Onboard Service Manual to effectively recycle these items. Also, remember not to mix cans in bags. Aluminum cans need to be placed in an insert.

Recycling also assists with trash management. Since most of our planes have limited space in trash receptacles, the cans will take up less space if they are returned to an insert.

We all have a global responsibility to be Green and help our environment. Consider that an aluminum can placed in the trash will find its way to a landfill and will not decompose for over 500 years. A can that is recycled will be back on the shelf as a new commodity in as little as 60 days! 500 years or 60 days? Which should you choose?

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