Trash Landing

Peter-Goodwin Peter Goodwin, director of Closed Loop Environmental Services, reveals the new mobile MRF that is helping Heathrow Airport deliver on its commitment to recycle 70 percent of its waste by 2020
Published in the CIWM Journal August 2013

aeroplaneClosed 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 third busiest international airport, as part of its ongoing sustainability review. The results are set to change the way the aviation sector views waste – from a significant cost into a valuable revenue stream. The audit was carried out using the Turnstile mobile material recovery facility (MRF), an innovative new system for on-site recycling and auditing work.

CLES was launched in the UK to continue the work of Closed Loop in Australia; a company that has been pioneering closed loop waste and packaging solutions for the leisure and travel industry. The Australian business was founded following a major project to design and deliver a recycling programme for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, which set a benchmark for the recycling and recovery of food service packaging. Over the past decade the company has expanded its area of operations to include the aviation sector and quick service restaurants. Another offshoot of the Closed Loop family is the Closed Loop Recycling plant in Dagenham, East London – a state-of-the-art plastic bottle recycling facility.

The Heathrow project is part of CLES’s focus on the UK leisure and sporting hospitality industry, to supply sustainable food and beverage packaging that can be recovered under a “closed loop” system. The trial is part of Heathrow’s commitment to improving environmental impact and on-going sustainability for travel and leisure, providing benefits to all the stakeholders and consumers at Heathrow.

Turning waste into a resource is now a chief environmental driver at Heathrow – the airport has a strategic key performance indicator to recycle 70 percent of its waste by 2020. Using CLES’s innovative Turnstile 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.

Material Analysis

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 Defra office.

Mark Robertson, Heathrow’s waste and environment manager – “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”

Initial trial results have revealed there is more packaging waste and 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 if it could be separated.

The trial will not only enable Heathrow to develop a clear business strategy on waste to resource but it will also enable CLES to engage with and influence the rest of the business stakeholders at the airport. It also sets a benchmark for similar industries and presents an opportunity for CLES to take its unique approach elsewhere.

Mark Robertson, Heathrow’s waste and 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.”

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. We are delighted to be working with Heathrow. There is a collective responsibility between airlines and airports to deliver on targets in order maximise landfill diversion and environmental benefits.

Still pickingHeathrow serves around 70m passengers a year. More than 320 businesses also operate from its site, collectively employing some 76 500 people. 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.

The Turnstile MRF

Designed in Australia, the Turnstile MRF is built into two 40ft shipping containers and can easily be “lifted and dropped” into small spaces within a day, making it ideal for situations where space is limited or where transferring waste to an off-site facility for sorting or auditing is neither practical nor cost-effective. Its compact and mobile nature makes it very flexible and an ideal solution for undertaking detailed compositional analysis, such has taken place at Heathrow, and also for maximising material recovery as a temporary facility for festivals and events or a permanent facility for remote locations.

The Turnstile can process up to one tonne of waste per hour and its manual sorters can identify and recover up to 10 different waste streams. The Turnstile has four integrated balers fed directly from the picking line and a glass crusher so materials ranging from plastic bottles, glass and paper to cardboard and mixed plastics can be sorted and baled for ease of storage, transport and saleability. The pickers can also target specific items, such as paper cups, plastic cups or aluminium cans, as the picking configuration can be tailored to the waste stream to maximise the recovery and value of the available waste. It also provides a great deal of flexibility if the composition of the waste stream changes during the deployment. By weighing the total amount of waste being put into Turnstile and the weights of the sorted materials and residue fraction, a detailed compositional analysis of the waste stream can be produced, with the data used to guide future waste and recycling processes such as specifying and managing waste contracts and even infrastructure design for permanent installations.

The Turnstile concept was originally developed for use at festivals or sporting events, where large volumes of recyclables are generated over short periods of time. Recognising the potential value of materials such as plastic bottles, aluminium cans and cardboard – provided they can be separated and baled – a large event can reduce its waste costs by turning waste into saleable product. From there it was a small step to recognise the potential for one mobile MRF to serve a number of remote communities, where the volume of waste would not justify the expense of building a permanent facility. The potential for waste analysis and audit was also clear and the Turnstile was first deployed in this role in New South Wales, Australia where it was used to analyse the waste from four collection areas with the results indicating that upwards of 40 percent of waste that was going straight to landfill could be recovered for recycling.

With the work at Heathrow successfully completed and the project there moving on to the next stages, CLES is looking forward to utilising the Turnstile on other projects in the UK with interest from both the events and local government sector.

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