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Green pioneers


Airport World reviews a handful of pioneering new sustainability initiatives and salutes Swedavia for becoming the first operator to achieve Net Zero emissions across its airport network.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has announced the expansion of its industry-leading plastic-free policy to prohibit the sale of any beverages in plastic bottles.

In August 2019, SFO became the first airport in the world to prohibit the provision or sale of single-use water bottles in plastic or aseptic paper packaging.

This policy has now been expanded to prohibit the sale of any beverages, including sodas, teas, and juices in plastic or aseptic paper packaging.

“This is a significant moment in our goal to achieve zero waste going into landfill,” enthused airport director Ivar Satero. “We took a very important first step two years ago, and now we take the next step towards a plastic-free future.

“Throughout this journey, it has been our SFO business community which ensures our success, and we thank our partners for having the courage to be leaders in our industry.”

In 2016, SFO established a goal to achieve zero waste going to landfill. To achieve this goal, SFO has been working with concessions and tenants on supporting policies, including a requirement to provide single-use food ware in compostable packaging.

Based upon waste characterisation studies, 33% of the items sent to landfill from SFO are food or food service ware and beverage containers.

In August 2019, SFO implemented a Zero Waste Concessions Policy to prohibit the sale of water in plastic bottles or aseptic paper packaging. At the time, approximately 10,000 bottles of water were being sold at SFO every day.

This expanded programme further avoids the energy-intensive production and diverts 1,000,000 fossil-fuel-based beverage containers a year from landfill.

SFO has provided airport retailers with a guide of approved alternatives to plastic beverage bottles. In addition, SFO installed 100 hydration stations across the airport to expand access and encourage passengers to bring refillable bottles.

Net Zero CO2 emissions for Swedavia’s airports

ACI Europe has welcomed Swedavia’s announcement that all ten of its Swedish airports have achieved Net Zero CO2 emissions across all operations under its control – a world first.

Swedavia has therefore become the first company to deliver on the European airport industry pledge to become Net Zero by 2050 at the latest.

Marking the milestone as it published its Annual and Sustainability Report, Swedavia mapped out the next steps in its commitment to climate change, which is to support other companies and organisations at its airports to further transform their operations to become more environmentally friendly.

ACI Europe’s director general, Olivier Jankovec, remarked: “Swedavia’s achievement is the culmination of a tireless focus on a sustainable future.

“Realising their ambition to reach fossil-free operations across all ten of their airports is a testament to the commitment, innovation and vision they have shown for many years. We congratulate them wholeheartedly on this remarkable achievement – in the most challenging of times.”

ACI Europe also took the opportunity to highlight what it calls the increasing challenges faced by the continent’s airports as they strive towards decarbonisation.

It notes that Europe’s airports have led the way in tangible planning and achievements towards Net Zero; first with its innovative Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, launched over ten years ago and now rolled out worldwide, and subsequently via their commitment to Net Zero 2050, publicly made in 2019.

However, the devastating effect of the global pandemic has made the challenging task of decarbonising aviation even more daunting, according to Jankovec.

He says: “Through the ongoing ambition of our Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, further enhanced through the introduction of two new accreditation levels, our close involvement in the European aviation sector’s recent Destination 2050 roadmap, and our call for the EU to join us in a Pact for Sustainable Aviation this year, we continue to strive towards our climate goals in tangible and actionable ways. Our ambition remains undimmed.

“But make no mistake. Decarbonisation takes investment. This pandemic has dealt Europe’s airports a crippling blow. With over 1.72 billion passengers lost across the network in 2020, resulting in lost revenues exceeding €32 billion, a renewed support of governments and institutions as we chart our path to a more sustainable recovery is crucial.

“Yet, we still need to see the EU walk the talk on that – not least by allowing airports to access funding under the EU Resilience and Recovery Facility.

“Swedavia shows us what is possible. Our commitment to Building Back Better remains undiminished. Let’s work together with a vision of realising common goals”.

Enhancing waste management

Doha’s Hamad International Airport has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Qatar’s Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) to improve its waste management.

As a result, the airport (DOH) says that it will develop and modernise its facilities by implementing new, more effective methods of waste management.

The MoU outlines the collaboration between MATAR – the Qatar Company for Airports Management and Operation – and the government for the management of different types of waste from DOH to the MME’s Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre.

According to the airport, the objectives of the MoU include the development of an integrated system for waste separation, safe transportation, recycling and disposal of waste, and the promotion of environmental awareness and culture of sustainability at DOH.

Hamad International Airport’s chief operating officer, Mohammed Al Meer, said: “We are committed to optimising our airport operations by improving our environmental performance.

“We are delighted to continue to contribute to Qatar’s National Vision 2030 pillar of environmental development by entering this strategic partnership with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment to further enhance our waste management systems.”

The airport believes that its new collaboration with MME provides another example of its commitment to the environment and the sustainable development of Hamad International Airport.

As well as actively striving to reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution, DOH’s sustainability measures also extend to waste water management, with most water used at the airport directed to DOH’s dedicated waste water treatment plant, which returns the treated water for irrigating the airport’s landscape features.

In 2018, DOH’s treatment plant was successful in recovering 93% of waste water for re-use. The airport continually reviews its systems to identify areas of improvement for long-term efficiency and sustainability.

Sustainable aviation fuel initiative

Rotterdam The Hague Airport, SkyNRG and Climeworks claim that they are taking the next step in realising Zenid – a demonstration plant producing fully circular sustainable aviation fuel directly from air.

Global energy company Uniper has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support Zenid with engineering and operating expertise.

SAF purely made from air via direct air capture technology and renewable electricity offer a carbon-neutral solution suitable to meet the industry’s high demands for renewable fuels in the future.

The Dutch gateway will be working on the project with Rotterdam The Hague Innovation Airport, an innovation subsidiary formed with the municipality of Rotterdam. Climeworks are described as Swiss direct air capture pioneers.

Rotterdam the Hague Airport director, Ron Louwerse, says: “Rotterdam the Hague Airport is very proud to be one of the kick-starters of this ground-breaking project, together with Schiphol Group and Rotterdam The Hague Innovation Airport (RHIA).

“It fits exceptionally well within our strategy to facilitate and accelerate sustainability and innovation in aviation, to be at the cradle of sustainable aviation fuel made of CO2 from air. We support this project with our know how and local networks.”

The demonstration plant will be powered by regionally sourced renewable energy and combines several innovative technologies: a direct air capture plant provides CO2 to a highly efficient co-electrolysis unit, that turns the CO2 and added water into syngas.

The syngas is transformed into liquid hydrocarbons by a modular Fischer-Tropsch reactor and then refined into sustainable aviation fuel.

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