Loads of liquid goods discarded by airline passengers at security checkpoints will end up in the trash, not in the pockets of airport employees or others, officials at airports across the country promised Friday.
No exceptions — not even for cases of Napa Valley wine.
"We had people throw away a whole case of wine, or try to drink their wine in line," said San Francisco's International Airport duty manager Lily Wang.
Airport security screeners scrambled to implement a new ban on all liquids and gels — from lip gloss and toothpaste to perfume and tequila — in carry-on luggage after British authorities announced Thursday the arrest of 24 people in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes. Baby formula, prescription medication and essential nonprescription medication are still allowed.
From Atlanta to Albuquerque, N.M., airport maintenance crews were ordered to dump any confiscated items along with the rest of the garbage.
"They seal it, they do not touch it, they dispose of it as they would other garbage," said Daniel Jiron, spokesman for the Albuquerque International Sunport.
All the waste irked some passengers.
"I know they have to do this, but I think they went overboard," said Terry Asbury, an Ohio resident who flew from Albuquerque to Cincinnati on Thursday and had to throw out her cosmetics. "I literally lost about $50 or $60 worth of things we were told to throw out."
Unopened items to homeless shelters in Phoenix
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport planned to give 11 boxes of surrendered items to the city's human services department, which will give the unopened bottles of shampoo, toothpaste and other items to homeless shelters, airport spokeswoman Lexie Van Haren said.
Officials at most airports, however, said safety reasons prevented them from giving away the discarded items because many were contaminated by other trash.
"It becomes trash once you put it in the bin. Inside that stuff is a lot of everything — someone blows their nose and throws the hanky away," said Phil Orlandella, spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
In Pennsylvania, state officials were considering pulling some discarded items for a state program that resells on eBay any items of value relinquished at airport security checkpoints, said Edward Myslewicz, spokesman for the General Services Department. However, officials at the state's main airports in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh said they were discarding all the liquids and gels.
Airports reported no problems with employees taking confiscated goods home or people combing through bins for discarded items. Workers taking any of the items would face discipline, airport officials said.
By Friday, most passengers had adjusted to the new rule and put any liquids or gels of value in checked-in luggage. Half-full bottles of water and coffee cups made up most of the refuse collected at security gates.
Sudden bursts of generosity
Some travelers turned to impromptu gift giving just so their items wouldn't be wasted.
A woman left Gucci perfume for her hotel maid in Atlanta, and a tourist from Great Britain gave away two bottles of Napa Valley wine to people leaving the San Francisco airport's parking lot.
"Didn't like it, but I wasn't about to throw it away," said Keith McAllister, the wine giver, after his arrival in Atlanta.
At Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, about 50 travelers were given postage-paid envelopes to mail their liquid goods home. A shop at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City offered free shipping for souvenirs purchased there — from barbecue sauce to snow globes.
Most travelers took the new rules in stride, including two Chinese tourists who asked Atlanta police officers to photograph them in front of a sign outlining the ban on liquids.
"I put everything in check-in and I'll get it when I get there," said Fan Wu, who was on his way to Shanghai.
Tisha Presley, bound for Fort Bragg, N.C., hurriedly sipped from her bottled water before going through security at the Atlanta airport.
"I assume before too long we'll be naked on the plane — and that's fine with me," she said.