An estimated five tonnes of liquids from hair gel to toothpaste are being confiscated each day at the UK’s major airports.
Since last August’s terrorist alerts, passengers have not been allowed to take any container with more than 100ml of liquid or gel through security checks.
Anyone who does has either to return to check-in to put items in their hold luggage or to surrender them to security staff. You are required to carry any liquids you plan to take on board in a resealable transparent plastic bag through security.
But there appears to be little sign that the message is getting across. At Birmingham airport just under one tonne of liquids is confiscated each day – including 200 litres of soft drinks, ten litres of hair gel and eight litres of toothpaste. That’s enough material to fill 18 baths.
Meanwhile, at Manchester airport, up to two tonnes of confiscated liquid are being dumped in skips every 24 hours.
Airport spokeswoman Zoë Ensor said: ‘It’s a huge problem. The last thing you want to do is take £40 worth of perfume off a passenger who has just bought it.’
While some airports, such as Newcastle, recycle the drinks containers they confiscate, BAA, which owns Gatwick and Heathrow, prohibits this. It argues that any containers discarded by terrorists might explode when opened and says it disposes of them ‘in a secure manner’.
Manchester airport incinerates all such waste, while Belfast International gives unopened and unclaimed toiletries to charity.
All of the airports we spoke to said they had brought in additional staff to deal with the problem, including queue-combers who inform people of the rules as they wait for checks. But lack of awareness has led to delays, which have been made worse by the random testing of liquids that was introduced in May.
At Manchester it’s estimated that only half of all passengers are aware of the rules when they arrive at the airport, and delays are expected to continue.
Zoë Ensor added: ‘Unfortunately, there is still a real and present risk to passengers – we’re not doing this for the fun of it.’
Go to www.dft.gov.uk for more advice.