Closed Loop Environmental Solutions UK Limited (CLES) has worked in partnership with Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) to undertake a large-scale audit of waste at the world’s largest international airport, as part of its ongoing sustainability review.
The results are set to change the way the aviation sector views waste. Turning waste into a resource is now a chief environmental driver at Heathrow as the airport has a strategic key performance indicator to recycle 70 percent of its waste by 2020.
Mark Robertson, Heathrow Airport – “Waste management at an airport is complex. There are numerous regulations and frameworks to operate within, and many stakeholders across the airport generating many different types of waste”
Running the airport generates around 110,000 tonnes a waste a year, a similar volume to that generated by all the households from a typical London borough. Heathrow directly manages around a quarter of this, while the majority is managed by other companies operating at the airport.
Using CLES’s Turnstile mobile material recovery facility (MRF), a comprehensive analysis of all waste arising from a number of operational areas of the airport has been carried out – the largest analysis ever done at an airport – and a full compositional analysis of the waste has been produced.
During the course of the study, which involved analysing the waste from Heathrow Terminals 1, 3 and 4, both landside (before security) and airside (after security), over 100 tonnes of waste was sorted into multiple material streams.
After seeing the value of the data being produced, the scope was extended to include a cabin waste analysis from airlines in conjunction with the local animal health authority.
Airport Waste Management
Initial trial results revealed there is more packaging waste and more waste in general that is suitable for recycling than previously thought. In particular, it was found that up to 60 percent of cabin waste analysed could be recycled.
The trial will not only enable Heathrow to develop a clear business strategy on waste but it will also enable CLES to engage with and influence the rest of the business stakeholders at the airport.
Mark Robertson, Heathrow’s waste & environment manager said: “Waste management at an airport is complex. There are numerous regulations and frameworks to operate within, and many stakeholders across the airport generating many different types of waste. This pioneering analysis is the first step in fully understanding what waste we are producing and the infrastructure and processes needed to achieve our stretching recycling targets.”
Peter Goodwin from Closed Loop Environmental Solutions added: “Based on the success of closed loop programmes for airports and airlines in Australia, we believe the UK now has sufficient recycling infrastructure in place to deliver these closed loop solutions.”