Does necessity have to be the mother of pollution? When waiting for a flight to whisk us away there is nothing more frustrating than a departure board splattered with delays and cancellations. During the recent snap of winter weather the deployment of de-icing trucks and cranes will have been a very welcome sight for passengers. However, long after those aircraft have landed at their destinations, the effects of that de-icer will be having a potentially devastating effect on the environment.

Glycol, which is used in 98% of de-icers, is designed not to adhere to the aircraft, meaning that an estimated 80% will find its way into the atmosphere or spill on the runway and consequently find its way into the airport’s drains.

Following the chaotic scenes of 2010, Heathrow has spent £36M on its winter resilience programme and increased the amount of stored de-icer by 20%. Gatwick has doubled its snow clearing capabilities by increasing its fleet of vehicles to 100 and now claims to be as well-equipped as Oslo Airport.

Understandably the priority during these periods is to keep passengers happy and get the aircraft off the ground. However, an airport’s duty of care extends beyond it’s passengers so it is imperative that just as much planning and resources are ploughed into the containment and re-cycling of de-icer.

The Environment Agency’s Guidelines on storage and use of de-icing products can be found on the Environment Agency Website under De-icer Regulations