UK-based Gatwick to build ‘world's first’ waste-to-energy airport plant

Gatwick Airport, in partnership with DHL, is set to become the first airport in the world able to dispose of Category One waste on site – an issue that costs the global aviation sector around £500 million a year – and convert it into energy.

Category One forms the majority of waste from non-EU flights and is defined as food waste or anything mixed with it – such as packaging, cups, meal trays - from international transport vehicles.

Its disposal is governed by strict rules that - until now - require specialist processing offsite to protect against the potential spread of disease and infectious material.

From November however Gatwick’s new £3.8million processing plant will not only dispose of this waste safely on site, it will also convert it - and all other organic waste - into energy to power the new plant and heat the North Terminal. 

Gatwick currently treats 2,200 tonnes of Category One waste each year – around 20% of the total generated at the airport (10,500 tonnes) – and the new energy plant will process around 10 tonnes a day.

The plant also includes a waste sorting centre as Gatwick brings responsibility for sorting in-house to maximise the amount recycled – a move that will boost the airport’s recycling rate to around 85% by 2020 – higher than any UK airport currently and up from 49% today.

Other environmental benefits from the new plant include:

Processing category 1 waste and sorting mixed recyclable waste on site

50% fewer lorry journeys to external waste plants reducing CO2 emissions

Generating energy from biomass boiler

1MW renewable energy

Water recovered from drying waste used to clean the bins

2 million litres per annum reduction in water use

Ash recovered from biomass boiler could be used to make low carbon concrete

Reduction in CO2 emissions

Compressing waste into large bales

210 fewer industrial-size waste bin collections a day across the airport, reducing CO2 emissions


Stewart Wingate, CEO at Gatwick, said: “Handling waste is a challenge for all airports, but Gatwick’s new World-beating facility converts a waste problem into a green energy source.

“We expect others to follow Gatwick’s lead as we realise our ambition to become the UK’s most sustainable airport.  Already we are one of only a handful of organisations in the country to achieve a triple series of Carbon Trust Standard awards, and more important environmental initiatives will follow soon.”

Paul Richardson, managing director for Specialist Services at DHL Supply Chain UK & Ireland said: “We have worked closely with Gatwick Airport over the past decade and are delighted to build our relationship further by implementing an innovative waste management and recycling system. This will not only improve efficiency but will help to accelerate the airport's progress, enabling it to meet its 2020 sustainability targets three years early.

"We will work closely with Gatwick Airport to integrate new technologies such as our Biomass Waste to Energy System into the supply chain, enhancing energy production and ensuring a sustainable platform to support future expansion for the airport.”

DHL Supply Chain already manages inbound deliveries at Gatwick Airport through its logistics and consolidation facility on behalf of the airport’s 150 partners and retailers.

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