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Waste to energy: Cooking oil converted to biofuel

Heathrow airfield at night

Responsible Heathrow case study

Catering companies at Heathrow use cooking oil to prepare food for the 76,500 people who work at the airport and the 180,000 passengers who pass through each day. This oil needs to be disposed of appropriately, to make sure that it doesn't block pipes or pollute water courses.

However, rather than throw used cooking oil away, we are recycling it to make biodiesel - a more sustainable fuel that can be used instead of fossil fuels to run diesel vehicles. Currently, 100% of the waste cooking oil produced at the airport is being recycled in some way, with over 85% being recycled as biodiesel, and we are looking to increase this even further. This is helping move us towards achieving our goal to recycle 70% of the waste generated at Heathrow.

In 2009, we worked with our logistics service partner to collect 57,000 litres of used cooking oil from Heathrow's catering companies and send it off-site for conversion to biodiesel at a specialist facility. From here, the biodiesel produced is added to the national vehicle fuel supply - providing the equivalent amount of fuel to power a car to drive round the circumference of the Earth 20 times.

Recycling the oil incurs no cost for the caterers, and each litre of used cooking oil creates almost the same volume of biodiesel.

We are looking to make the process even more efficient, to include all of the waste cooking oil produced at the airport in the recycling scheme, and to potentially include waste cooking oil from other local businesses in the future. Additionally, we are looking at ways to re-use the biodiesel at Heathrow, to help close the loop between the waste we produce and the fuel we use.

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