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Sorting out Heathrow's waste

Heathrow airfield at night

Sustainability case study

Managing waste at any airport is a complex job, let alone at the world’s busiest.  As well as operating within specific regulations, Heathrow must work closely with retailers, airlines, cleaners and caterers to manage the different kinds of waste associated with the 200,000 passengers that pass through the airport every day; that’s 110,000 tonnes of waste a year.

To help us manage this waste in the best way possible, Heathrow is undertaking a pioneering waste analysis; the first step in better understanding what waste we are producing and the processes we need to put in place to achieve our stretching target to recycle or compost 70% of our waste by 2020.

Working with Closed Loop Environmental Solutions , Heathrow is using an innovative ‘Turnstile’ material recovery facility to analyse our waste streams.  More commonly used at music festivals such as Glastonbury, the turnstile sorts through up to one tonne of waste per  and can recover up to 10 different waste streams, from plastic bottles and glass to paper and mixed plastics.

Dealing with over 100 tonnes of waste,  the study is the largest analysis ever done at an airport  and covers all types of waste from Terminals 1, 3 and 4, both landside (before security) and airside (after security).

As well as improving our own waste management strategy, the trial is helping us find  better ways of working with other waste producers at the airport, and is setting a benchmark for similar industries.

We will soon be taking this a step further by bringing together national and international stakeholders to analyse cabin waste, which is notoriously difficult to recycle due to complex international regulations, to find innovative new ways to continuously increase our recycling rates.

Sustainability awards

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