CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Douglas International Airport is using Starbucks coffee grounds to fight a fire ant problem.
Grounds from the six Starbucks locations within the airport used to go into a landfill. Now, the coffee grounds are scattered on airport grounds. The airport started recycling grounds in November of 2008.
The main locations are runway and taxi lights, where airport officials say they most often see fire ant mounds.
"It's a plus for us because we're not getting eaten up by them,” said airport Housekeeping Manager Bob Lucas.
Lucas says he Googled uses for used coffee grounds and found they kill fire ants.
"It's worked well so far. I mean we've got 6,000 acres. I don't know how many lights now since we added the extra runway, so anything that kills some fire ants around those is always a plus,” he added.
The airport recycles an average of 2,200 pounds of grounds per week in the winter and 800 pounds of grounds a week in the summer. Those grounds are kept in piles off Wilkinson Boulevard.
Lucas says the airport saves about $755 per year using the coffee grounds on fire ants and for compost. It used to cost the airport that much a year to haul the grounds to a landfill.
"It keeps the haul rates down, tip fees and everything,” Lucas said.
Traveler Denise Born buys Starbucks coffee.
"I drink it as a treat,” she said. "I might need to start putting our coffee grounds out at home. We have terrible fire ants.”
The airport also recycles 180 plastic milk containers and 60 syrup containers a week from Starbucks, plus plastic muffin and cake trays.
Overall, the airport says it has diverted 57,000 pounds of Starbucks recyclable waste from landfills over a two year span.