LAX and Gatwick step up recycling efforts with initiatives to turn airport waste into energy
(photo: Alpha LSG)
Tue 2 May 2017 – Los Angeles International (LAX) and London Gatwick airports have started recycling initiatives to turn waste into either natural gas fuel or onsite energy use. In partnership with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation (LASAN), LAX is beginning a 90-day pilot programme involving the collection of food waste from a targeted sample of airports restaurants and concessionaires, which will then be transported offsite for conversion into natural gas using an anaerobic digestion process. Solid and liquid organic waste that cannot be converted into methane gas will be converted into commercial-grade fertiliser. Gatwick Airport and DHL Supply Chain, meanwhile, have opened a new waste management plant, which they claim makes the airport the first in the world to turn both food and packaging waste into energy onsite.
The Organic Waste Recycling Pilot programme at LAX involves one full-service and one fast food restaurant, a café and the United Club airline lounge, which are considered representative samples of the types of food-selling establishments found throughout the airport. At each location, the Maintenance Services Division (MSD) of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) will collect food waste from each and prepare it for collection and transportation. LASAN will then transport the waste to the City of Los Angeles Transfer Site for further consolidation before transporting it to CR&R Environmental Services for the anaerobic digestion process and conversion into natural gas fuel.
“We expect the programme will become a significant part of the wide variety of environmentally-conscious programmes now underway at LAX and Van Nuys,” said LAWA CEO Deborah Flint.
LAX already has another food recycling initiative in place, the Harvest Food Donation programme, in which the airport and concessionaires have so far donated over 150,000 pounds (68 tonnes) of unconsumed, pre-packaged food to local non-profit organisations. LAWA MSD has also removed and repurposed over 47 tons of non-native plants for animal consumption at Los Angeles Zoo as part of its work in protecting the health of the LAX Dunes habitat, home of the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly. Under LAX’s Clean Construction programme, more than 83% of debris was recycled during the construction of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal, as well as leading to significant GHG savings during recent taxiway construction.
The new £3.8 million ($4.9m) waste management plant at Gatwick disposes of Category 1 waste onsite and converts it and other organic waste into energy to heat the waste management site and power its water recovery system. 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.
Category 1 waste 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. The airport currently treats 2,200 tonnes of Category 1 waste annually offsite, around 20% of the total 10,500 tonnes waste generated.
The new plant will process around 10 tonnes of waste per day and includes a waste sorting centre to maximise recycling onsite. By concentrating all activities in one location, Gatwick says its waste is transported four times more efficiently than before and so reducing local traffic and carbon emissions.
The airport aims to save £1,000 ($1,300) per day in energy and waste management costs through the plant’s operation, which has the capacity to produce additional energy that could one day be used to power other areas of the airport.
Gatwick is aiming to improve its current recycling rate of 49% to around 85% by 2020, higher than any other UK 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,” said Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate. “We’re confident it sets the benchmark for others to follow in waste management.”