Gatwick Airport is successfully managing waste in a “green” and efficient way since 2017. It was the first airport in the world to turn airport waste, such as food and packaging, into energy onsite.

The £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.

For the waste drying process, GAIA machines were used.

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 was treating 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 would 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 included a waste sorting centre to maximise recycling onsite. Concentrating all activities in one location enabled the team to transport waste four times more efficiently than before, reducing local traffic and carbon emissions.

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