It seems that every time I show up at the security line at an airport I have forgotten to check something that I am not allowed to carry on-board and so I lose it. Often it’s my pocketknife. This happened to me just the other day. As soon as I felt it in my pocket, I knew I was going to lose another old friend. The smiling security man told me that he could check it (for $15) or “toss it”. Of course he saw nothing wrong with discarding a perfectly useful product into a dump if it happened to be in the wrong place. His superiors belong explicitly to the world of waste and garbage uber alles.
Clearly, discarding prohibited items was the FIRST IDEA to occur to the security crowd. Why not? Isn’t garbage dumping civilized and modern and proper?
As I walked away sans pocketknife, I asked myself what would be a zero waste way to handle this situation. As usual, how could we perform the same function but without allowing discard?
And as always, at least an initial redesign leaped out at me. It couldn’t be more obvious how to take away knives without dumping. I am not addressing the taking away of liquids at this point.
One way would be to put the knives into a bag and put them on the plane to be redistributed at the destination. But this doesn’t work very well since the security scan covers people going to hundreds of destinations.
So how about putting some responsibility onto the passengers themselves? How about storing the knives, then issuing a voucher to the passenger allowing him to pick up one replacement knife at his destination, that was left behind by some unknown passenger at that end. I wouldn’t get back my own knife of course but I would have a usable knife. And the resentment I feel at having my knife taken for what I consider utterly spurious, political purposes, would be much muted.
I can already hear the objections. “Too much trouble!” “Not worth it!” “Let them buy a new knife!” First ideas are usually defended until they collapse in crisis.
Is this the only, the highest and best way to redesign the process? Of course not. My goal is merely to show that non-discard approaches can usually be found without much trouble if you care to look. Maybe a better way would be to seal the knife in a pouch that gets attached to the boarding pass and is taken by the staff as the passenger boards the plane and returned at the other end. What is your solution?