Heathrow takes flight with engaging sustainability drive

Heathrow Airport is looking to improve its sustainability credentials through a collaborative partnership model which will share and embed best practice across three key areas - transport, resources and people.

Fifteen blue chips operating at the airport have committed to the initiative including British Airways, catering firm Gate Gourmet, facilities management company Amey, Hertz Car Hire and construction giant Ferrovial.

The multi-disciplinary group is governed by a leadership board comprising CEOs and managing directors from these stakeholders who represent between them 70% of the 75,000 employees working at the airport.

The board will develop shared objectives and aspirations around the three areas which will evolve into clear targets before being driven forward by a practitioner group led by sustainability and environment managers.

In an exclusive interview with edie, Heathrow Airport’s sustainability manager Ellie Morley said the partnership was borne out of a recognition that improving the airport’s environmental performance lies not just with Heathrow Airport Limited itself, but the whole airport community.

“The companies that are signed up to this have already got some good best practice on sustainability to share,” she said.

“The aim is to cascade this good practice to other, smaller companies throughout the airport that might not necessarily have had the time or resources to take such an approach, but could adopt something from what the larger companies have already achieved.”

The partnership went through a pilot year in 2011 where four different projects were trialled. From this a broader action plan was drawn up which now comprises 27 projects in total.

The resources category stretches across energy, waste and water issues looking at, among other things, how footprinting gains, reporting/monitoring mechanisms and efficiencies can be achieved.

One of the first projects will look to harness greater recycling rates from aircraft cabin waste. More than half of this is plastic, paper and glass while the remainder is food and beverage, and subject to strict disposal regulations when originating from international flights.

“One of our biggest challenges is dealing with biodegradable food waste from aircraft, particularly category 1 international aircraft catering waste,” Morley said.

“British Airways has made a good start in dealing with EU category 3 aircraft catering waste so we are working with them to develop a better practice model which could then be cascaded throughout other airlines and the cleaning supply chain.”

On the energy front, the airport is working with a baggage handling firm on vehicle emissions. Emission vehicle identification units will be fitted to the firm’s airside vehicles to get better monitoring data to help drive through reductions.

Work is also being undertaken to disseminate information on how airlines and ground handlers can reduce emissions from planes on departure.

Meanwhile Heathrow is working with Ferrovial to develop a code of conduct on pollution prevention, to prevent spills and contamination in the airport’s water supplies.

All projects are still in the feasibility stage and Morley stressed that ideas and actions around each one were “still coming together and forming”. She added that eventually targets would be set. “We want these to be stretching, but achievable.”

Maxine Perella

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