Water & Waste Management

Preserving ground water and improving water management

About de-icing operations

In winter, aircraft de-icing and airport surface de-icing operations are crucial for ensuring the safety of passengers and flight operations, regardless of weather conditions.

Snow and ice on an aeroplane can create a number of dangerous problems. The frozen contaminants can interfere with the aerodynamic properties of the airplane, causing it to lose lift and increase drag. This can be very dangerous during takeoff and landing, when the plane is already flying at a low speed. In addition, dislodged ice can damage the engines or other important parts of the airplane.

This is why it is important to de-ice aeroplanes during winter, as it can help make sure the aircraft can take off safely and prevent any potential damage caused by ice.

Aircraft de-icing is a process that is used to remove snow, ice or frost from the wings and fuselage of an aircraft. It is an important safety procedure that must be carried out before every flight during the winter months when icing, snow or slush are visible on aircraft surfaces, or when the risk of it building up is high.

Depending on the conditions (temperature, contamination level, aircraft type, and others), propylene glycol is mixed with a certain percentage of water. Using the right percentage is important for effective de-icing, as too much water can create ice instead of melting it. These days, modern de-icing trucks can automatically adjust the ratio according to the current outside temperature and weather conditions.

In Luxembourg, the more intensive de-icing season typically extends from November to April. Several factors influence the quantity and concentration of products applied, namely weather, (with precipitation or without precipitation), operational conditions, climatic variables including temperature, humidity, wind, solar radiation, etc.

What happens to the de-icing water?

During dry weather, de-icing products remain on the runway, do not penetrate the rainwater collection system and may, depending on the duration of the dry weather, accumulate there in increasing volumes. In humid weather, two scenarios can be observed:

In the event of moderate precipitation and lower temperatures, the application of a high water/ADF* volume with a lower ADF* is applied;

In the event of heavy precipitation (snow, freezing rain, etc.) and lower temperatures, a high volume at a higher concentration of ADF* is applied.

The largest proportion of contaminated water is generated during de-icing operations in wet weather, while the highest load occurs at the onset of a rainy period after a prolonged dry period.


Recovery of water from de-icing

Aircraft de-icing consists of the preventive (anti-icing) or corrective (de-icing) application of ADF* products, generally composed of chemical agents based on propylene/ethylene glycol, which act by lowering the freezing point of the aircraft surface to prevent or melt ice, snow or frost until the moment the aircraft takes off.

Although essential for airport operations, de-icing products are also a major cause of organic loads in surface waters, which can have a negative impact on downstream infrastructure in the absence of adequate on-site evacuation and treatment measures. As part of the efforts to ensure that the sanitation system at Luxembourg Airport complies with all requirements, new works and installations are being planned to collect, separate, store, evacuate and treat water from surfaces contaminated by de-icing operations. Given the scale of the work, it is currently estimated that the completion and commissioning of all the new infrastructure will take place between 2026 and 2028. In the meantime, we wanted to find an interim solution for the management of de-icing water.

In collaboration with SIDEST, Ponts&Chaussées and Luxair, a system for the collection, temporary storage, evacuation and treatment of de-icing water has been set up for the 2021/2022 winter season. In order to reduce the concentration of total organic carbon (TOC) in the run-off water from the freight and passenger car parks, we have set up a system to recover de-icing water from the aircraft stands on the passenger (P1) and freight (P7-P10) stands using sweepers. This recovery also took place during the winter of 2022-2023.


This Management System has 3 Steps:

Removal: Water is recovered by vacuuming with 2 sweepers (9 m3 capacity) directly on the aircraft stands after their departure and on the passenger and freight car parks. The frequency of the sweeping operations is coordinated with Luxair, the company responsible for de-icing. Once the sweepers have reached a certain level of filling, they empty the vehicles in the area set aside for this purpose.

Temporary storage: Located in the north-west corner of P10, the dumping site consists of a 13m3 tank connected by gravity to the basin S2.

Transport and treatment: All the water collected is stored during the winter season. In spring, the water is transported by truck to the Grevenmacher wastewater treatment plant where it is treated by anaerobic digestion in the sludge area.

A follow-up study was carried out to collect data to allow a quantitative assessment of the produced effluents to be made and to determine the capacity to recover contaminated water and the rate and responsiveness of the operational resources. The average recovery rate is about 30% of the ADF-water mixture applied. Several factors have an impact on the re-covered volumes:

the time that elapses between the de-icing operation and the mobilisation of the means of recovery (sweepers), particularly in the event of heavy rainfall, which causes the products flowing on the surfaces to move more quickly towards the collection networks (gutters, drains).

the time taken by the sweepers to vacuum all the positions. the amount of ADF-water mixture left on the vehicle.


Positive Impacts

All these measures made it possible to collect a large quantity of water with a high organic content, thus reducing the load on the rainwater network (pipes and basins) and avoiding peaks in critical concentrations. Several positive effects have been achieved, namely:

A reduction in the load to be treated in the Übersyren waste-water treatment plant, with a consequent reduction in the costs of aeration and oxygen injection, as well as maintaining the functionality of the biological treatment process

Avoiding the risk of discharging water with a high concentration of de-icing products into the river in the event of tank S1 being completely filled

De-icing water could be treated more efficiently in the sludge area

As a side effect, a useful collection of data on the consumption of de-icing products, recovery rates and treatment possibilities could be compiled, which will serve as a basis for future projects concerning the management of this water. In view of the considerable improvement in the management of de-icing water that the procedures applied in winter 2021—2022 have brought, lux-Airport has decided to continue this recovery for the coming winters.


Piezometer analysis

The airport is situated on several drinking water protected areas. Due to the vicinity of the Birelergrund springs, the airport has installed 9 piezometers to keep track of the groundwater’s quality. Twice a year, we analyse the physico-chemical parameters, PAHs, PFAS, glycols and triazoles. The results are transparently shared and discussed with the Administration de la Gestion des Eaux and Ville de Luxembourg. New parameters for monitoring water quality have been added as requested by the water management administration. In particular, these concern the impact of airport activities on the catchments of the Birelergrund area and cover perfluorinated surfactants (PFTs) and constituents of de-icing fluids (glycol, benzotriazol).

Dry Urinals

Did you know that sanitary areas can represent more than 20% of a building’s water consumption?

Faced with this observation, our Environment team has sought to propose a solution that is part of our overall approach to saving energy and resources. And the result is now visible in the men’s toilets in Terminal A/B, in the form of “waterless” urinals. A concept from the Luxembourg start-up Techno Green, these urinals work:

without a flushing system

without electricity Produced in a CO2-neutral manner, they are 100% recyclable and only use microbiological cleaning products. A deodourising cube coupled with a vertical membrane form the basis of the sanitary system, guaranteeing odour-free use. Since we started the project, we have saved 12 m2 per day, or 4,270,000 litres per year of water in the terminal. This means a reduction of 20% of the water consumption per passenger.


Manage waste avoid, reuse, recycle and recover

At lux-Airport, we want to ensure sustainable development and reduce the environmental impact of our activities. This includes improving our waste management. In order to control the efficiency of our waste management measures, lux-Airport complies with the SuperDrecksKëscht® standard and has held this label since 2019, which is re-certified every year. We also aim to increase the recycling rate of the airport’s waste. To achieve this, we are constantly looking for and implementing new categories of waste to be sorted and recycled or recovered. For example, the waste recycling rate for 2022 was 30%, which represents nearly 125 tonnes of recycled waste and 36 different sorting categories. However, we can still improve this rate, particularly by reducing the amount of residual waste we produce, for example by avoiding single-use plastics wherever possible.


  • 451 kg collected butts
  • 23 ashtrays
  • 15 years to degrade in nature
  • lux-Airport is the first international airport to start with Zero Mego in 2020.

In the service of the environment

The selective sorting of cigarette butts has been carried out in the lux-Airport buildings and the main smoking areas of the airport since 2020.

Together with Shime and MéGO!, lux-Airport has made it its mission to collect, sort and recycle cigarette butts around the airport. New ashtrays were provided to collect even more butts. Compared to the previous year, more than twice as many cigarette butts were collected and recycled in 2022.


Small waste — big pollution

The filter surrounded by tobacco residue and paper is made of a cellulose acetate filter, a type of plastic treated with toxic substances. It contains more than 2,500 chemical components and takes 15 years to degrade in nature. If an uncollected cigarette butt ends up in a drain or natural waters, it will pollute the equivalent of 500 litres of water.

Making waste useful

Even though we are already preventing water pollution by collecting cigarette butts, we are not stopping there. The butts are sent to a recycling company in France that has developed an innovative and patented process to clean and reuse the material. This recycling process is expensive, but worth the effort. The process of cleaning and recycling cigarette filters has enabled the creation of a new, patented material: PlastiGO!

This material will be used to make street furniture to be placed in smoking areas. In this way, the incentive effect of the project is reinforced (studies show a 30% decrease in discarded cigarette butts). PlastiGO! is inert and is provided as a deposit so that it can be recycled again and again. This makes it part of the circular economy.

Thanks to the 1,805,000 butts collected and recycled, 354 Olympic swimming pools were preserved and 264 MeGo! standing seats will be produced.


Minimising plastic waste

  • 30% recycling rate
  • 3.5 t recycled plastic
  • 7 types of Plastic sorted

Stop single use Plastics

In the waste prevention hierarchy, the first step is to avoid the production of waste. To this end, lux-Airport is currently seeking to eliminate single-use plastics. Now that we have eliminated cups, we are now also looking for a solution for gloves and plastic bags used by security agents at checkpoints.

As part of the new waste regulations, we will also work with the stakeholder in charge of catering at the terminals.

Bento Box

We also want to keep encouraging staff to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics. After providing them with the Gobi reusable bottle and the insulated mug, we offered our employees a Bento Box to encourage them to bring their meals from home and thus reduce single-use takeaway packaging.


Press for plastic Bottles

Among our latest initiatives, we have installed a bottle press, the purpose of which is to compact plastic bottles while recovering the liquid. The reason is that the majority of plastic bottles sorted by passengers still contain a significant amount of liquid. This device saves time for the staff who manage the waste because the bottles can now be thrown away full of liquid.

Compacting also significantly reduces the volume of bottles to be stored before they are removed and optimises transport and recovery. Thanks to the hydraulic cylinder which has a compression force of 25 tonnes, a single bale can contain up to 2000 PET bottles.

What happens to objects prohibited on board and left by passengers before boarding?

Rather than being thrown away with the rest of the waste, they are included in our waste sorting process! They are first sorted into 5 categories according to type and stored in a secure wired room before being transferred for processing through specific channels. For security reasons, they cannot be reused and we must ensure that they are destroyed.


In its desire to ensure sustainable development and reduce the environmental impact of its activities, lux-Airport aims to improve the management of its waste. In order to control the effectiveness of the measures implemented, we have signed up to the SuperDrecksKëscht® waste management scheme. Since the last inspection visit, the official label has been granted to lux-Airport in recognition of our adherence to this principle of sustainable management, ensuring high quality as well as ecological and economic sustainability.

The SuperDrecksKëscht® label is a distinction for establish­ments that actively contribute to the protection of the environment through modern waste management according to the SuperDrecksKëscht® fir Betriber concept. This quality label rewards 2,000 companies for their responsible approach and commitment to the environment. It is certified according to the ISO 14024: 2000 international standard. As a result, the waste management policies of labeled companies also fully meet the requirements of ISO 14024.

The main criteria for receiving the SuperDrecksKëscht® label are the implementation of preventive mea-sures, the selective collection of all waste, the environmentally friendly storage of waste and the treatment of waste products through approved companies. This guarantees the protection of the environment and the quality and transparency of recycling and waste disposal.

Compliance with the label criteria is checked once a year. If the company meets the criteria for five successive years, it is awarded a diploma and is audited every two years. This quality label thus contributes to maintaining the foundations of sustainable development­ through the rational management of natural resources.

With more than 40 different types of waste sorted but only 29 percent recycled, our efforts at lux-Airport must continue, even if the quantities of waste and the level of sorting strongly depend on the behavior of the passengers.


· Reduction of waste production at the source
· Increasing the recycling rate
· Training and awareness of staff and also passengers
· Encouraging reusable packaging


We all know that the production of plastic cups is a big problem for the environment, but their disposal also presents a major environmental threat. The European Commission is discussing a series of measures to reduce the number of plastics found on beaches and in the sea:

«Plastic waste is increasingly polluting the oceans and according to one estimation, by 2050 the oceans could contain more plastic than fish by weight.»

European Parliament


What’s easier than simply removing the plastic cups? It was one of our security staff who came up with this great idea. At lux-Airport, every year staff consume 70,000 plastic cups at water fountains alone.

Plastic cups are generally not recyclable due to the poor quality of plastic used in their production. Instead, they are incinerated or dumped in a landfill where they take 500 years to degrade. Surprisingly, cardboard cups are no more environmentally friendly. Their manufacture from wo

od requires 13 times more water and twice as much electricity than plastic cups. When all processes are considered, the manufacture of a plastic cup requires the equivalent of 3.2 grams oil compared to 4.1 for the cardboard version. Worse still, the thin layer of plastic that covers the inside of a cardboard cup makes it almost impossible to recycle and very complex to compost.

Reusable Bottle

At lux-Airport, replacing disposable cups with reusable bottles means that every year we reduce:

· Waste by 2 tons
· Equivalent CO² emissions for production by 200 kilogram
· quivalent CO² emissions for disposal by 2 tons

In our quest to find reusable alterna­tives, we finally settled on «Gobi» because in addition to the long-term advantages of a reusable container, it is Eco-designed with all of its environmental impact reduced.

It only takes 30 uses to repay the environmental impact of the Gobi bottle. After that, it begins to have a net benefit for the environment compared to single-use plastic cups.

We know that when it comes to the environment, even small gestures can make a big difference, especially when they are multiplied many times. Making the bottle available to our staff is a contribution to the objective of minimizing our environmental impact.

One Bottle Saves 650 Disposal Cups Per Year/Person


Gobi has a new friend – the new personalized isotherm mug for our staff! It is another step in our ecological journey we encourage. To take a coffee in our shop or in the canteens, this mug will be used instead of plastic or cardboard cups.

Environment Optimization Diagram
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