London's Gatwick Airport opens world's first WTE facility for airline waste
- Gatwick Airport in London has opened what it says is the world's first waste-to-energy facility for airline and terminal waste. The £3.8 million ($4.77 million USD) facility can process waste from both planes and the terminal itself that was previously being taken offsite, as reported by Resource.
- The site already had a small material recovery facility and the opening of this new system allows it to treat Category 1 material, such as food waste and mixed packaging. The material will now go through a dryer, be turned into pellets and then burned in a biomass boiler to create heat for the entire terminal.
- Gatwick and logistics partner DHL Supply Chain estimate that this new facility will save the airport £1,000 (approx. $1,250 USD) in waste management and energy costs every day.
International guidelines stipulate that Category 1 material can only be incinerated or rendered so airports usually have no choice but to handle it offsite, creating transportation costs and vehicle emissions. This waste accounts for about 20% of the 10,500 metric tons of material that Gatwick handles each year.
By developing a more closed loop system with other byproducts such as wastewater that can be used to clean bins and boiler ash that can be used to make concrete the airport has taken a significant step toward its goal of becoming one of the world's most sustainable. Gatwick currently diverts 49% of its waste for recycling and is aiming to reach 85% by 2020. While the U.K. may soon no longer be a part of the conversation these efforts are in the spirit of the circular economy package currently being debated by the European Parliament.
Amid pressure to reduce their large share of transportation emissions, airlines are looking for ways to become more sustainable. Some have been looking at ways to reduce cabin waste and even recycle wastewater they use for maintenance cleaning. Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta — the world's largest airport — has also been trying to develop a resource recovery facility on-site for years.
Follow Cole Rosengren on Twitter