Heathrow food waste in Vertal take-off

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Food waste from Heathrow Airport is to be used to grow new crops, under a new scheme set up by BAA and recycling innovators Vertal, in which Foresight is an investor.

Coffee grinds, potato peelings, egg shells, chicken bones - all by-products from catering to Heathrow’s 180,000 passengers a day - will be collected separately in cafés and restaurants, and sent to Vertal’s state-of-the-art recycling facility in Mitcham, South London.

Here it will be treated using new technology that harnesses the natural heat released by composting to pasteurise food waste under its own steam.

In just 72 hours, waste from all five terminals will be transformed into nutrient-rich fertiliser, for use on local farms.

The initiative is highly carbon beneficial.  Not only is waste diverted from landfill, where it would decompose to release environmentally-toxic methane, but returning nutrients to the land allows farmers to grow new food without the need for petrochemical fertilisers.

And because Vertal’s plants are compact and can be installed in urban environments close to major sources of waste, transport road miles - and  the resulting pollution - are slashed.

In the first year, Heathrow will save CO₂ gas from the atmosphere equivalent to around half a million air miles.

BAA’s Waste Manager at Heathrow Airport, Nathan Gray, said: “Heathrow is the world’s busiest international airport, and we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.  Recycling is a key part of that.

“We’ve already raised levels to 50 per cent this year, and we’ve committed to a target of 70 per cent by 2020.  Introducing food waste recycling is helping us to achieve that.”
Vertal’s founder and Managing Director, Leon Mekitarian, said:

“Recycling food waste locally with Vertal is a highly effective way for organisations to offset carbon.

“Our accelerated composting technology is significantly more carbon positive than any other process.  And as the market matures and new legislation comes on stream, that’s becoming a very important business factor.

“We can really help companies of all sizes drive down the cost of waste management, and capitalise on the benefits.”

Other organisations recycling food waste with Vertal include the London Borough of Lambeth, Pret a Manger, and the Dorchester.

In addition, the process has now attracted interest from waste management authorities in New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Madrid, Mexico City, Karachi, Lagos and Beijing.

Vertal has made a short film - viewable online via YouTube - explaining the technology and showing its plant in action.  It can be seen at: