Gatwick Airport is set to be the first airport in the world to dispose of Category 1 waste on site and turn it into energy.
Category 1 waste – which is defined as food waste or anything mixed with it - costs the global aviation sector around £500m a year.
Its disposal is governed by strict rules that - until now - require specialist processing offsite to protect against the potential spread of disease and infectious material.
As of November however, a new £3.8m processing plant being built at the airport will not only dispose of this waste safely on site, it will also convert it - and all other organic waste - into energy to power the new plant and heat the North Terminal.
Gatwick currently treats 2,200 tonnes of Category 1 waste each year – around 20% of the total generated at the airport (10,500 tonnes) – and the new energy plant will process around 10 tonnes a day.
The plant also includes a waste sorting centre as Gatwick brings responsibility for sorting in-house to maximise the amount recycled – a move that will boost the airport’s recycling rate to around 85% by 2020 – higher than any UK airport currently and up from 49% today.
Stewart Wingate, Gatwick CEO, said: “Handling waste is a challenge for all airports, but Gatwick’s new World-beating facility converts a waste problem into a green energy source.
“We expect others to follow Gatwick’s lead as we realise our ambition to become the UK’s most sustainable airport.
“Already we are one of only a handful of organisations in the country to achieve a triple series of Carbon Trust Standard awards, and more important environmental initiatives will follow soon.”
Gatwick is the UK’s second largest airport and serves more than 220 destinations in 80 countries for more than 41 million passengers a year.