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Summary of waste management approaches of the top airports in the UK

There’s no getting away from it, aviation produces a huge amount of waste – thousands of tonnes every year in the UK alone. Airports are like cities; there are thousands of people who work at them, and millions of passengers passing through every year to shop and eat. And on top of the waste produced at the airport is waste brought in on the airlines from all over the globe.

These days, airports and airlines are very conscious of their corporate social responsibilities and the major airlines have made huge strides to deal with all this waste responsibly.


The Manchester Airport Group (MAG) which owns Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands, and Bournemouth Airports, has made great strides in its target to “minimise waste, promote recycling and eliminate landfill”. It proposes to send no waste to landfill after 2018 (with the exception of International Catering Waste where regulations permit no other options). According to its 2016 annual report, of the 15,569 tonnes of waste produced in 2015, MAG diverted 83% of it away from landfill. Stansted Airport did particularly well, recovering or recycling 99% of its waste.


Gatwick Airport has been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard for its waste management practices, and is now in the top 15% of companies with regards to waste management policies and practice. In 2015, its efforts to separate waste for recycling enabled it to increase recycling and reuse rates to 49%, and increased energy recovered from waste by 47%.


Heathrow Airport’s goal is to recycle 70% of its 25,000 tonnes of waste a year by 2020. Their current strategy is to recycle as much as possible, or, as an alternative, to recover energy from it. It has made progress with this strategy with 46% recycling rates in 2014, up from 30% in 2011.

In 2015, Heathrow undertook a study of 100 tonnes of waste to analyse exactly what they were dealing with. As a result, the airport is now working with the airlines, IATA and Sustainable Aviation to encourage regulators to permit recycling of cabin waste instead of incinerating it. The airport also has a scheme to collect waste cooking oil from the airport’s restaurants in order to turn it into biodiesel which is used by companies around the airport.

If you would like to discuss ways your company can reduce its carbon footprint by the efficient disposal of waste, contact us to talk to our waste contractors.

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