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Building a green future


Airport World shines the spotlight on a handful of pioneering sustainability initiatives in the UK, US and Germany.

In the UK, AGS Airports is trialling the use of oxo-biodegradable 100ml security bags at Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports and believes the move could remove more than two million single-use plastic bags annually across the group.

The technology involved ensures the product will begin to degrade over a selected period of time – between 17 and 24 months of a bag’s lifespan – down to a natural bio-mass rather than the more damaging micro-plastics associated with single-use alternatives.

Introduced in partnership with Enviro-Point, a subsidiary of airport service company Luggage-Point – the new more environmentally friendly bags can be reused and recycled prior to the beginning of the degrading period.

Mark Johnston, chief operating officer at AGS Airports, says: “Finding a suitable alternative that met both our security and operational requirements while retaining the necessary resilience the bags require was a challenge, so we’re really pleased to be able to trial a product that can not only be re-used and recycled, but also provides our passengers with the assurance that they are also supporting our efforts to support the environment.”

The group is one of over 200 airports across Europe to have signed ACI Europe’s NetZero 2050 pledge; a commitment to achieving net zero for the carbon under our their respective control by 2050.

Port Authority’s Clean Construction Program

In the US, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has announced the implementation of a Clean Construction Program, which it claims is one of the most ambitious programmes of its kind among US transportation agencies as it is designed to reduce carbon emissions throughout the design and construction processes.

According to the Port Authority, the new programme will ensure that a minimum of 75% of concrete, asphalt, and steel construction waste will be diverted from landfills.

It also incorporates LEED and Envision-equivalent standards for environmentally-friendly infrastructure design, advancing the Port Authority’s commitment to reducing emissions and leading the transportation sector towards a low-carbon and more sustainable future.

Indeed, according to PANYNJ, the Clean Construction Program builds on the agency’s guidelines for sustainable design for buildings and infrastructure, will reduce “embodied carbon” (the carbon emissions generated from the manufacturing and transportation of construction materials and on-site construction activity), promote the circular economy (reusing materials to increase their lifespans), and reduce air pollution from construction across all facilities through six specific initiatives.

The requirements outlined in the Clean Construction Program will apply to all new projects, and many are already being embedded into ongoing work, including the LaGuardia Airport and Newark Airport Terminal One redevelopments.

At LaGuardia Airport, nearly 22,000 tons of concrete was recycled from the demolition of the original Terminal B parking structure and approximately 2,475 tons of this recycled concrete were reused on the adjacent job site.

Truck travel during demolition of the old airport has been reduced by 250,000 miles, the equivalent of 10 trips around the world, due to the creation of a concrete recycling facility on site.

As part of the ongoing construction for the Terminal One Redevelopment Program at Newark Liberty International Airport, over 30,820 tons of asphalt, 101,511 tons of concrete and 61,597 tons of soil have already been recycled for the construction of the new Terminal One, Bridge N60 Frontage Road Bridge and Pedestrian Bridge, connecting pedestrians to the new terminal’s departures level.

“We are leading the way toward a more sustainable future because now more than ever we must all be committed to protecting our environment,” says Port Authority chairman, Kevin O’Toole.

Driving innovation in Munich

In Germany, Munich Airport has introduced a CO2 neutral passenger bus (pictured above) with an innovative drive concept as it strives to reduce its carbon emissions and become an ACI NetZero gateway by 2050.

The bus has been fitted with a generator-electric drive, developed by Rohrbach-based start-up CM Fluids, that has allowed it to be converted so that it can be fuelled with renewable bio-methane.

According to the airport, the bus’s ‘CMF Drive’, a patented concept of CM Fluids, “combines the advantages of a combustion engine with the benefits of an electric drive” by allowing it to be fuelled with liquid bio-methane, which powers an engine.

The resultant energy is temporarily stored in a small buffer battery that supplies electricity to the bus’s electric drive axle.

Passenger buses with long operating times or frequent stops and starts particularly showcase the advantages of the CMF Drive system, the airport explains, as the braking energy can be recuperated and also temporarily stored in the buffer battery.

In contrast with conventional electric buses, which have a much more limited range, a full tank lasts for up to 800 kilometres. And refuelling is quick and easy, too, says the airport, as it takes just five minutes to fill the vehicle’s 500 litre tank.

Most importantly, with 90% fewer particulates than EURO VI diesel engines and more than 60% fewer nitrogen oxides, the concept ensures vastly improved air quality at the airport.

Munich Airport CEO, Jost Lammers, enthuses: “We have set the ambitious target of consistently cutting CO2 emissions at our airport, and bringing them down to zero in the long-term.”

The bus is part of Munich Airport’s existing vehicle fleet, and with others likely to be converted in the future if the current trial proves a success, the airport is also aware that it could save a fortune on not being required to purchase any new buses in order to meet its climate change targets.

Nothing goes to waste?

In a UK first, Heathrow is trialling new technology that could turn unrecyclable passenger waste into airport furniture, uniforms and alternative fuels.

A new recycling unit that could process up to 5,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic once scaled up, is being tested by the airport and could allow Heathrow to recycle 100% of its on-airport plastic waste.

University College London (UCL) and Sheffield-based company, Catal, used funding from Heathrow’s Innovation Prize to set-up a research and development (R&D) unit with the aim of making the technology commercially viable by 2025.

The airport is initially trialling turning unrecyclable plastic passenger waste – including food packaging and plastic film – into airport furniture, uniforms and lower-emission jet fuel by 2025.

Currently at Heathrow, close to 50% of airport and aircraft cabin waste is recycled. This 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.

According to UCL’s Dr Massimiliano Materazzi, who told Airport World that the project is progressing well, the plant has the potentialto save up to 5,000 tonnes of waste from incineration by turning it into its original oil state for recycling every year.

If successful, it will enable Heathrow to recycle all plastic waste from the airport where regulations permit. Once the waste is refined using this new technology, the resulting oil will be collected and processed in a separate facility which makes use of renewable hydrogen to upgrade the oil into new generation, low-carbon products such as furniture and uniforms.

It is estimated that between five and eight kilogrammes of plastics oil will be produced for every 10kg of waste handled each hour. Researchers say it’s also possible that this oil can be transformed into Jet A1-type sustainable fuel and will investigate further during the trial.

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