Airport chief calls for household waste to be used for SAF

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has said that the UK could reduce its carbon footprint by using household waste to make sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), following a newly released study.

MAG runs Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports

The study from transport sustainability company ICF said that “around 8.5m tonnes” of household rubbish is burned to make electricity when items cannot be recycled of reused, with a further 7.3m tonnes burned “with no energy recovery at all”.

MAG has called for the same waste that is being incinerated to make electricity, to be used to produce SAF at new refineries across the UK, “giving airports a direct supply and creating tens of thousands of green jobs”.

The research claimed that the reduction in carbon emissions from using bin bag waste to make SAF would be “at least give times greater” than that achieved by incinerating to generate electricity.

‘89% less carbon’ with SAF

ICF’s study suggests that SAF made from waste emits “89% less carbon” than burning conventional jet fuel.

The research claimed that if all the rubbish the UK currently incinerates was used to make SAF instead, the carbon saving “would be equivalent to the emissions of at least 46 million people flying from London Stansted Airport to Madrid every year”.

The department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) is said to have given councils the green light to send the waste they collect to make SAF.

Ken O’Toole, CEO of MAG, which runs Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports and commissioned the ICF study, said: “It is proven that SAF has the capability to power the planes of the future and will be instrumental in the decarbonisation of air travel in the coming years.

“It is vital that we use household waste in the most efficient way we can to help reduce carbon emissions. But the simple fact is, by continuing to incinerate waste to make electricity we’re missing out on an important opportunity to cut the UK’s carbon emissions.

“By using household waste to make SAF, we can scale up our domestic SAF production and ensure that air travel – which delivers so many economic and social benefits – remains affordable and on a path to net zero.”


Defra rules state that councils should prioritise disposal that enables so-called “municipal solid waste” (MSW) to be recycled or re-used. After that, it can either be sent to landfill or used to make energy or fuel.

According to ICF, 27.3m tonnes of MSW are collected in the UK each year, which is said to make it the most widely available domestic raw material to make SAF, ahead of agricultural waste.

Of that, “8.5m tonnes” are used to make electricity, with” a further 7.3m tonnes sent to incinerators without any energy being captured”.

Industry coalition Sustainable Aviation (SA) has identified that “as many as 14 SAF plants could be built across the UK”, with the government committed to having five under construction by 2025.

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3 responses to “Airport chief calls for household waste to be used for SAF

  1. Can you share the link to the ICF report? It doesn’t seem to be on its website. Thanks.

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