Environmental Case Study: Sydney Airport

Environmental Case Study: Sydney Airport

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Environmental Case Study: Sydney Airport


With Botany Bay on one side and the CBD of Australia’s largest city on the other, Sydney Airport has a full range of environmental issues to monitor and manage. Environmental management at Sydney Airport is conducted in accordance with the Sydney Airport Environment Strategy. Sydney Airport is Australia’s busiest airport, with over 8 million international travellers and 15 million domestic travellers arriving and departing on approximately 290,000 flights annually. This makes Sydney Airport a major source of pollution in Australia today.

Sydney Airports environmental Strategy was developed in accordance with the current laws and legislations. It provides the system by which long term and daily environmental management can be planned, implemented and reviewed, in a cycle of continuous improvement.
Sydney Airports Environmental Strategy comprises the following main components:

· Environmental Policy

· Planning, including Environmental Aspect and Risk Identification and Assessment, Objectives, Targets and Action Plans

· Implementation and Operation, including Environmental Responsibilities, Training and Awareness, Communication, Document and Operational Control, and Emergency Preparedness and Response

· Checking and Corrective Action, including monitoring, assessment and auditing, and

· Management Review.


Sydney Airport has a full range of environmental issues to address in accordance with its day-to-day operations.
These Include:

· Environmental Management and Stakeholder Relationships
· Resource Use (Water, Energy and Raw Materials)
· Air Quality
· Ground Transport
· Surface Water Quality
· Soil and Groundwater Quality
· Noise
· Flora and Fauna
· Heritage
· Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Materials, and
· Waste.

Sydney Airports have established key objective for each of these environmental issues. These objectives follow the principles of the Sydney Airport Environment Policy, setting the direction for the management of each environmental aspect.

Each of these issues have a list of defined priority, developed in consideration of the item’s risk, status of current management, and resources. The priority system categories include:

· A: Highest Priority Actions, to be implemented within 1 to 2 years
· B: Medium Priority Actions, to be implemented within 2 to 3 years
· C: Lower Priority Actions, to be implemented within 3 to 5 years, or as resources permit, and
· D: Actions with rolling, regular timeframes or with timing that is dependent upon external factors.
Airport Environmental Strategy (AES)

This Airport Environment Strategy (AES) provides the strategic direction for environmental management of Sydney Airport over a period of 5-years. The strategy is prepared in accordance with the Commonwealth Airports Act 1996, and the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997.After 5 years a new strategy is completed and it updates and replaces the previous Airport Environment Strategy. Sydney Airport’s First AES was developed in 1999 and was a major success.

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The purpose of an AES is to:
· Ensure all significant environmental risks in the functional areas of air, noise, water, waste, resource use and land management are appropriately managed
· Facilitate Sydney Airport’s objective of achieving world’s best practice environmental management, and
· Ensure continuous improvement of the airport environment and to build upon the achievements and goals of the First AES.

The Airports Act 1996 sets out specific requirements to be addressed in an AES. The AES has to be developed to comply with the following criteria and to provide the best environmental management possible.
The AES includes:
· Outline of existing environment and operations
· Discussion of environmental aspects/potential impacts affiliated with airport activities
· Identification of significant sites (Sites of Indigenous Significance and Environmentally Significant Areas)
· Identification of the First Term (1999-2004) AES Achievements
· Overall framework of environmental management at Sydney Airport incorporating SACL’s organisation structure and environmental responsibilities, and
· Sydney Airport’s 5-year Action plan.
The AES is a legally binding document for the environmental management of all operations at the Airport. It is enforceable by the independent Airport Environment Officers, who are responsible for enforcing the environmental requirements of the
Airports Act of 1996.

Laws and Legislation

The legislative framework established for environmental management of Sydney Airport incorporates:

· Airports Act 1996, Part 5 and Part 6
· Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997, and
· Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

An Airport Environment Officer is appointed to over see Sydney Airport and the implementation of environmental aspects of this legislation.

Each legislation contains detailed provisions related to:
· Acceptable limits and objectives for air, water and soil pollution, and offensive noise
· Detailed requirements for Airport Environment Strategies
· General duties to avoid pollution, preserve significant habitat and cultural areas, and to prevent offensive noise
· Monitoring and reporting requirements for existing pollution, and
· Requirements for the preparation of an Annual Environmental Report.

Historical Perspective

Since being established in 1920 Sydney Airport has made continuous improvement in minimizing their environmental impact and carbon footprint for future generations.

· Enhanced air quality monitoring program through adoption of new monitoring technology
· Commenced major soil remediation works
· Conducted a Noise Impact Assessment for ground-based operations
· Completed soil remediation works at the Northern Lands site
· Established a public feedback mechanism and environmental information page on the Sydney Airport
Internet site
· Released a Sustainability Report, tracking their progress towards sustainable development
· Sydney Airport’s Environmental Management System reviewed and updated in accordance with Australian and International Standard.
· Comprehensive soil and groundwater contamination study, ‘Project Swiss Cheese’, was completed
· Achieved over 50% reduction in the number of on-airport spills, and Spill Response Team procedures updated
· Implemented Contaminated Sites Management Strategy, including risk assessment of all identified sites, and development of Remedial Action Plans for high risk sites
· Released ‘Environmental Management at Sydney Airport’ education handbook
· Implemented an Underground Storage Tank Strategy to improve management, removal and installation of bulk fuel tanks
· Conducted a major review of the heritage elements of Sydney Airport
· Achieved an average waste reduction of 13% on previous year
· Completed an Energy Management Strategy aimed at reducing Sydney Airport’s energy usage
· Installed on-airport odour control unit to reduce emissions
· Aircraft Ground Running Procedures reviewed
· Completed a comprehensive Stormwater Characterisation Study across the Airport, and completed a stormwater monitoring program
· Achieved a 50% reduction in the number of on-airport spills for second year running
· Upgraded pollution control devices
· Achieved a waste volume reduction of 5% on previous year, and developed an Airport Waste Strategy
· Funded public whale watching platform as part of Sydney Airport’s community grants program
· Received a Gold Award from NSW Government's Sustainable Energy Development Authority for energy use reduction, achieving a 15% reduction in energy use over a 3-year period
· Completed a Stormwater Management Plan aimed at significantly reducing water use at the Airport
· Commissioned an Airport-wide Heritage Management Plan, including specific management plans for all Airports

Environmental objectives

Some of Sydney Airports Environmental objectives include:

· Continue to reduce resource use across the Airport, including water usage and energy consumption.
· Minimise air emissions from ground-based airport operations and activities
· Comply with State and Commonwealth legislation and relevant standards and guidelines
· Encourage progressive introduction by airlines for new engine designs and technologies to reduce aircraft air emissions.
· Minimise traffic-related environmental impacts (especially air and noise emissions)
· Minimise the impact of airport operations on surface water quality in and adjacent to Sydney Airport
· Minimise noise associated with ground operations
· Ensure protection of the significant natural environment in and around Sydney Airport
· Ensure that the storage, transport and handling of dangerous goods and hazardous materials is managed in accordance with Commonwealth and State legislation
· Implement best-practice environmental controls for the prevention and management of spills and release of hazardous materials
· Adopt a hierarchical approach to waste management for the Airport, avoid unnecessary resource consumption, resource recovery, and disposal

Current operations

The Sydney Airports Environmental manager is responsible for the day-to-day management, administrative, operation and communication of the Airports environmental strategy. The Environmental manager or an environmental officer is either on duty or on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Environmental management at Sydney Airport is not exclusive to one section of the airport. Sydney Airport has adopted an integrated approach to ensure that all airport staff and operators have an element of environmental responsibility.

Sydney Airport has established an Environment Policy that forms the basis for environmental management of Sydney Airport. The policy establishes the principles for sustainable use of the airport, from which objectives, targets and action programs are developed.

Sydney airports Environment Department is responsible for the effective implementation of actions contained within the environmental policy and ensuring compliance with applicable legislative and regulatory requirements. An important function of the Environment Department is the coordination of environmental issues across all departments and with airport tenants and operators. This is achieved through the airports Corporate Environmental Management System (EMS) and Environmental Auditing program, which addresses all operations and tenant activities, including the maintenance of tenant Environmental Management Plans (EMP).

The Environment Department also engages a broad range of consultants, contractors and technicians to undertake studies, assessments and monitoring of environmental issues at Sydney Airport.

Future Directions/Actions

Sydney Airport and the N.S.W government are currently in negotiations about building a second Sydney airport. It is very possible that this could create much worse air and water quality for Sydney. The location of second airport has been mentioned (See Fig 2) although no outcome has been achieved. The new location has to be very well thought out so that;
A) It is appropriate to the needs of an airport that is likely to grow
B) It has a detrimental impact on as few people as possible and
C) Its impact on the environment, including air and water quality, is minimised.

The Federal Government has also just approved a draft plan for Sydney Airport that will allow it to double passenger arrivals and triple aircraft numbers over the next 20 years.
At this time there is still no developments prepared or any associated environmental assessments although this does suggests that emissions could rise by up to 65% in the next 15 to 20 years.


Sydney Airport has currently developed a very effective and reliable environmental strategy, this has substantially helped lessen their environmental impact and become a much more environmentally sustainable airport.


A) Aircraft noise continues to be a concern to the community around Sydney airport and this is not significantly outlined in their Environmental Management Strategy. I recommend that Sydney airport does not just abide by the laws and legislations enforced by government but put in more effort into reducing the noise impact in surrounding areas and possibly introduce more suitable aircraft curfews.

B) Due to the opening of new runways in 2007 Air pollution from aircraft emissions are on the rise and this is lowering the air quality of the areas around it. The Environmental Management Strategy needs to reflect on this, as the Air Quality Management Plan of 1994 is quite out dated. I recommend that Sydney Airport have to get more advanced and more reliable measurements and enhance monitoring to find out what the emissions from Sydney airport actually are and possibly come up with solutions to reduce this.

C) If this speculation of a second Sydney Airport does actually get developed and planes are still producing these significant kinds of emission levels then I recommend that they put the new airport where people won't be exposed. Possibly out in the country where the emissions will be diluted, not in the middle of a city of 3 million people.


Environmental manager, Kelly Tilwater

Sydney Airports Corporation Limited, 1999, Sydney Airport Environment Strategy (1999-2004).

Sydney Airport Corporation Limited, 2003, Annual Environmental Report 2002/03.

Sydney Airport Corporation Limited, 2004, Sydney Airport Master Plan 03/04.




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