Plastic roads for Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport innovation prize
Plastic waste for road surfacing won the Heathrow Innovation Prize

Heathrow Airport is to investigate whether plastic waste can be used for road surfacing.

The idea was proposed by Maidenhead resident Andrew Swift who entered the airport’s innovation competition aimed to encourage airport colleagues to identify new sustainability solutions.


Heathrow will fund research into Andrew’s winning idea with its university partners, which could lead to an on-airport trial.

Cumbria Council is already trialing the use of plastic waste for road surfacing.

In a second innovation competition, the airport invited UK SMEs to submit solutions to solve some of the sustainability challenges facing airports and the aviation industry more widely.

Entries were invited to focus on three areas as part of Heathrow’s Centre of Excellence for Sustainability work: using waste as a resource, sustainable and low carbon materials, and measuring and enhancing quality of life locally.

Essex based start-up Energy Crop Solutions won the Innovation Prize, receiving £20,000 in funding and the opportunity to use the airport as a “test bed” for its sustainability solution.

Energy Crop Solutions plans to work with local charity Green Corridor to explore how different willow varieties provide acoustic, air quality and aesthetic improvements for local residents. The company will also explore if the willows can be used to fuel the airport’s on-site biomass boiler.

Apart from the two winning entries, Heathrow is keen to pursue several other ideas that have resulted from this year’s competition. These include:

  • Dorset-based ECO360 which provides recyclable cardboard furniture and suggested trialing these in specialist airport applications
  • Leeds-based Yellow Label, a tech start-up seeking to cut food waste communicating the availability of discounted food to consumers

Matt Gorman, Heathrow Director of Sustainability and Environment said: “The creativity and ingenuity from all the entries we received has shown us the value of our Innovation Prize.  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.”

Winner Gary Crooks, from Energy Crop Solutions, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be selected as a winner of the Sustainable Innovation Prize.

“Working with Heathrow has given us a unique opportunity to demonstrate the benefits now possible from the latest willow cultivars and 2nd generation biomass. With this amazing opportunity we will demonstrate the benefits of willow for air quality, bio diversity and noise reduction for the local communities.

“We will also highlight the use the greatly improved 2nd generation biomass accelerating its adoption across the UK. We are excited to explore the opportunities that winning the prize presents and can’t wait to get started.”

Winner of the internal Sustainable Innovation Prize,  Andrew Swift said: “I was very surprised and pleased to not only to have my idea short listed but to end up an eventual winner of the Heathrow’s Centre of Excellence innovation prize.  The world slowly is waking up to the big issue plastic is causing our environment and here at Heathrow I can see the desire to be an industry leader in making a difference”

The strength and creativity of the entries received in both competitions has encouraged the airport to launch a second prize early in 2019.

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