nRaw materials and residual flows

The earth cannot endlessly supply raw materials, so it is essential that, as an organisation, we make the shift from a linear economy to a circular economy. To this end, Schiphol Group takes a responsible approach to our use of natural resources and other materials, and we are committed to operating zero-waste airports by 2030. This means that any raw materials, components or products we use are reused or recycled to the highest possible standard, preferably at our own locations, or else as close to our airports as possible. In light of our vision, we refer to 'residuals' and not 'waste', since every residual retains some form of value. As we work towards our goal, we are adapting our activities in line with the circular economy. These processes include construction and design, as well as our use of raw materials and our management of residual flows.

Accordingly, we are working to speed up the integration of recycling and other circular concepts; however, we recognise that Schiphol still has a long way to go in making this transition. A key step in this process involves taking responsibility for how we use and dispose of materials across our operations. From reducing our dependency on raw materials and changing how we design and construct assets to strengthening our waste separation and recycling processes, we will be working with our stakeholders and partners over the coming years to make positive, long-term changes to our airport processes.

Mindful resource use

As a starting point, we have been looking critically at our construction methods, our waste processes and our use of materials to better understand them and the impact on the environment. Schiphol is currently working with Milgro, a cleantech company that uses ICT platforms to help organisations monitor and manage waste and resources in a more efficient way. In 2018, we ran a pilot programme for customers using the business class lounges of British Airways and SwissPort to test the registration system provided by Milgro. The aim was to determine whether the system provides sufficient insight into the residual flows from companies located within the terminal and to establish the basis for a reward system for sustainable and circular behaviour. Unfortunately, we had to terminate the pilot earlier than planned due to organisational issues. We will resume our measuring activities in 2019.

Schiphol also undertook a number of proactive efforts to drive passenger awareness around waste separation over the course of the year. Despite our efforts to promote best practice, it is unrealistic to expect to be able to influence the actions of many millions of passengers each year. In particular, it is now apparent that we will not achieve significantly higher separation percentages in the terminal than the current 40-45% level (we have been able to achieve 80% separation at our offices as we have greater influence over our employees' behaviour). As such, Schiphol and Suez are researching post-separation technology to help identify different routes to reaching the separation targets.

Design for disassembly

A central element of our zero-waste approach will involve the gradual integration of circular building design and construction methods into our assets and real estate development strategy. Our ultimate goal is to implement design for disassembly principles for all new constructions, allowing physical assets and materials to be easily salvaged and repurposed for new projects. Schiphol's Circular Economy (CE) Task Force, which was set up in 2017, had a pivotal role in driving this approach.

A key recent focus of Schiphol's design for disassembly strategy has involved identifying bottlenecks within our organisation that may be holding back the advancement of circular building approaches. In particular, much was learned from the Pier C renovation project: while circular concepts were used in designing the renovated pier, unfortunately, we were ultimately unable to utilise circular processes as part of the project. Nevertheless, the project proved to be a valuable learning exercise that will inform future developments.

Closing the loop: Advancing strategic resource management

For Schiphol to become its own fully circular economy, it is imperative that all of our value chain partners are equally engaged in this mission and 100% aligned in their goals. In 2018, we continued to adapt our contracting and tendering practices to reflect this need. Circularity was a decisive factor in selecting a new display supplier (Display As A Service) and a visual docking guidance system provider.

In addition to partnering with like-minded companies on site, we are also working to spread circular knowledge and practices to other organisations in our region. 2018 saw the launch of C-creators: a partnership between Royal Schiphol Group, Rabobank Regio Schiphol and the municipality of Amsterdam to advance circular construction in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA). The programme organises masterclasses and events and supports relevant construction projects throughout the region. Indeed, Schiphol's Flexoffice and Innovation Lab are among the initiatives to have already received support from C-creators.

Equally, we recognise the value that other organisations can add to our own circular processes and methodologies, and we are increasingly looking to bring new skills and tools into the airport environment. In 2018, Schiphol joined a pilot led by Excess Materials Exchange (EME), a digital marketplace where companies can exchange surplus products and materials. Through this innovative pilot, we have gained further insight into the residual flows of shops and catering outlets in the terminal, putting us in a stronger position to identify the optimal recycling options for all of our residual flows. We will conduct further research into our flows in 2019.

We are working with our strategic partner, Suez, to ensure these flows are reused or recycled to the maximum extent possible. By 2020, we aim to recycle at least 70% of the operational residual flows at Schiphol, up from 44.6% in 2018 and 42.3% in 2017. Construction and demolition waste and CAT1 waste from aircraft are not included in these targets, as they are separated and processed by business partners at our location.

Percentage of separated operational residual flows













  • Excluding CAT1 aircraft waste.

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