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Heathrow Project Would Turn Waste Into Furniture, Uniforms

by Megan Hill

Oct 18, 2019

Heathrow Airport lounge. Photo: Dmzotov80 | Dreamstime.com

Feature

Heathrow Airport is testing new technology that could help recycle all of its plastic waste into uniforms and furniture.

The machine in use would turn plastic into its original oil state, diverting around 5,000 tons of plastic waste from the incinerator. The oil would then be processed in a separate facility and used to create “new generation, low-carbon products such as furniture and uniforms.”

There’s also the possibility of using the oil for Jet A1-type sustainable fuel in the future.

The project produces between five and eight kilograms of plastic oil for every 10 kilograms of waste processed each hour. If this project is successful, it could be commercially viable by 2025 and used in other airports in the future.

Heathrow says that right now, “close to 50 percent of airport and aircraft cabin waste is recycled,” which is “comparable with most local authorities despite the strict regulations in place for cabin waste from international flights, which mean most of that waste must be sent for incineration or landfilled.”

“People are rightly concerned about plastic waste. Tens of thousands of tonnes of it are produced by UK air passengers every year which is something we must tackle,” says Matt Gorman, sustainability and environment director, Heathrow. “That’s why we’re helping to fund this R&D project which could make Heathrow the first UK airport to be able to recycle all plastic waste generated at the airport.

“Coupled with new regulations from Government on processing cabin waste, it would create a step-change in how airports across the UK manage plastic waste — giving passengers the confidence to travel knowing their plastics are sorted.”

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