- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

The tons of gels and liquids confiscated at U.S. airports for fear of being potentially explosive are being tossed into the trash and hauled off as routine garbage.

“It’s just thrown out,” said Transportation Security Administration spokesman Darrin Kayser. “It’s collected by the airport’s janitorial staff and thrown in the [airport’s regular] garbage bins.”

The TSA on Aug. 10 began prohibiting travelers from carrying liquids, gels and creams aboard commercial flights after British authorities announced they had thwarted a plot to blow up more than 10 commercial airliners en route to the United States.

The TSA is responsible for screening and confiscating prohibited items from passengers. Disposing the items is left up to the airports.

Mr. Kayser said the TSA focuses its time, manpower and money on what it deems are the greatest security risks. Given the massive logistical challenges the agency faces in protecting the airlines, it simply doesn’t have the resources to further examine the confiscated items.

“You look at the risk analysis. A bomb going off in an airplane is vastly different than a bomb going off in a Dumpster behind the airport,” Mr. Kayser said. “You have to look at the most serious threats to security.”

John Kenkel, a senior director with Jane’s Information Group, a consultant to the defense, aerospace, transportation and security industries, said the type of liquid explosive that could be hidden in a water or shampoo bottle is less volatile than solid explosives.

“Unless you were standing near the garbage bin when [the explosive] was triggered, it probably wouldn’t do much damage,” Mr. Kenkel said. “And if it did ignite in the bin, there probably would be enough water bottles and Vaseline in there to dilute the explosion.”

The nation’s busiest airports collected about 30 pounds of restricted items per hour the first day or two of the ban, TSA spokeswoman Lara Uselding said. By late last week, the amount had dwindled significantly.

Officials with Washington’s three major airports said they haven’t tracked how many banned items have been discarded.

Once the TSA seizes an item, it becomes federal property and cannot be returned or donated to charities, Miss Uselding said.

“But the passenger has options. They can put it back in their car, give it to a friend who isn’t flying or ship it” via ground transport, she said.

Miss Uselding said that a woman flying from a Midwest airport since the ban was implemented chose to ship her cosmetics rather than throw them out.

“For some women, the cosmetics in their purse may be worth more than the price of their airline ticket,” Miss Uselding said.

Lily Wang, duty manager at San Francisco International Airport, said she saw several passengers discard bottles of wine before boarding flights.

“We even had someone throw out a case of wine,” she said.

Miss Wang said some international travelers who tried to take home bottles of wine they bought at nearby Napa Valley wineries decided to pop the corks and throw an impromptu party in the terminal rather than surrender their liquid souvenirs.

“I also ran into somebody in line trying to sell a bottle of Jack Daniel’s” whiskey, Miss Wang said. “You can’t gobble all that down before your flight.”

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