Recycling Product News Logo

Gatwick and DHL open new waste management plant – turning Category 1 airline waste into energy onsite

First ICW compliant biomass combustion system installed; goal to hit 85% recycling rate

Gatwick Airport and DHL Supply Chain have formally opened a new waste management plant, becoming the first airport in the world to turn airport waste, such as food and packaging, into energy onsite. The new £3.8million waste plant not only disposes of Category 1 waste safely onsite, but converts it and other organic waste into energy to heat Gatwick’s waste management site and power the site's water recovery system. The plant is set to save £1,000 in energy and waste management costs for every day it operates.

Category 1 forms the majority of waste from non-EU flights and is defined as food waste or anything mixed with it, such as packaging, cups and meal trays from international transport vehicles. Through the plant, waste is turned into a dry-powdered organic material, used as fuel to heat the site and dry the waste for the next day.

Gatwick currently treats 2,200 tonnes of Category 1 waste each year, around 20% of the total generated at the airport (10,500 tonnes). The new energy plant will process around 10 tonnes per day, whereas all Category 1 waste was previously processed offsite.

With the objective of boosting the airport’s recycling rate from 49% today to around 85% by 2020 - higher than any UK airport - the plant includes a waste sorting centre to maximise recycling onsite. Concentrating all activities in one location enables the team to transport waste four times more efficiently than before, reducing local traffic and carbon emissions.

The plant has also been designed with the future in mind and has the capacity to produce additional energy that could one day be used to power other areas of the airport.

“On our journey to become the UK’s most sustainable airport, our new world-beating waste plant turns a difficult waste problem into a sustainable energy source. We’re confident it sets the benchmark for others to follow in waste management,” said Stewart Wingate, Gatwick CEO.

Our ambitious plans to develop in the most environmentally responsible way possible are driven by a set of rigorous targets. I’m delighted to say our strategy is working and, despite passenger numbers doubling, our environmental footprint is better today than it was in the early 1990s.

Martin Willmor, Senior Vice President, Specialist Services, UK, DHL Supply Chain, added: “After a decade of working closely with Gatwick, we’re excited to still be finding innovative ways to improve operations across the airport. Disposing of Category 1 waste can be very costly and time-consuming, but our new waste management and recycling system is a huge step forward.

Gatwick is leading the way in converting waste onsite into an energy source and we’re already investigating a number of further initiatives to support sustainable energy production and the future expansion of 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.

Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and the most efficient single-runway airport in the world. It serves 228 destinations in 74 countries for 43 million passengers a year on short and long-haul point-to-point services. It is also a major economic driver for the South East region, generating around 21,000 on-airport jobs and a further 10,000 jobs through related activities. The airport is south of Central London with excellent public transport links, including the Gatwick Express, and is part of the Oyster contactless payment network. Gatwick Airport is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder.