Heathrow to act as test bed for green corridors and plastic-waste roads

Heathrow Airport is set to install innovative road surfacing made from recycled plastic waste alongside "green corridors", after announcing the winners of its inaugural Sustainable Innovation Prize.

The innovations were judged as the best solutions to some of the key sustainability challenges facing the aviation sector

The innovations were judged as the best solutions to some of the key sustainability challenges facing the aviation sector

The airport will be used as a “test bed” for Essex-based start-up Energy Crop Solutions’ “green corridor” concept, with Heathrow set to spend £20,000 planting a variety of willow trees across its estate.

Once the trees are planted, researchers will assess how each strain of plant improves air quality, reduces noise pollution and improves aesthetics for local residents. The company will also explore if the willows can be used to fuel the airport’s onsite biomass boiler and will provide more funding to Energy Crop Solutions to expand the scheme if it proves successful.

Meanwhile, Heathrow will also investigate the feasibility of recycling its plastic waste streams for reuse in road surfacing. The idea was put forward by staff member Andrew Swift, with Heathrow pledging to research the concept with its university partners before deciding whether to go ahead with an on-airport trial.

The ideas were put forward after the airport launched its first Sustainable Innovation Prize in January, as part of its plan for carbon-neutral expansion, Heathrow 2.0. The transport hub previously said the winning innovations would become an “integral part” of the 2.0 sustainability strategy going forward.

“The creativity and ingenuity from all the entries we received have shown us the value of our Innovation Prize,” Heathrow’s sustainability and environment director Matt Gorman said. “We look forward to seeing the results of the research and trials from our winners, and how they will help us think outside of the box to tackle our biggest environmental challenges at the airport.”

Entrants to the competition were tasked with pitching innovations that treated waste as a resource, reduced the carbon footprint of construction materials and helped to measure and improve quality of life for local communities. Heathrow has announced it will fund a second innovation competition in 2019. 

Carbon-neutral expansion

Heathrow recently published a one-year progress report on its Heathrow 2.0 sustainability strategy, which lists more than 200 targets across a range of social, environmental and economic issues.

Heathrow 2.0 is ultimately underpinned by the Airport’s expansion. Crucially, the growth in flights and infrastructure caused by Heathrow’s expansion will be carbon-neutral under Heathrow 2.0, with the airport detailing plans to offset an inevitable increase in emissions through the restoration of peatlands in the UK.

The strategy places a big emphasis on zero-emission transport, with Heathrow aiming to ensure that all vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes are electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 as part of its commitment to the Climate Group’s EV100 initiative. As it strives to achieve this goal, the airport has integrated 50 EVs into its fleet and worked with Transport for London to install seven rapid charging points for electric taxis.

As for green aviation, Heathrow is increasing its environmental charges for aircraft by 7%, to incentivise airlines to deploy cleaner and newer aircraft to lower emissions and noise pollution.

Elsewhere, the airport has pledged to recycle all disposable coffee cups that are sold and discarded onsite by the end of the year and currently generates 100% of its electricity needs from renewable sources. 

Sarah George


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aviation | heathrow airport | Green innovation

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Technology & innovation
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