Passenger aircraft could be powered by rubbish sent to landfill under a government scheme to cut emissions.

The Department for Transport said that £22 million would be spent on developing low-carbon “waste-based” fuels for aircraft and lorries in response to growing concern about poor air quality and environmental damage.

Trials of sustainable jet fuel made from waste materials have been performed in Europe and North America.

More than 70 groups have expressed interest in bidding for the DfT funding to develop similar proposals in the UK, involving the use of landfill waste.

The DfT said the new fuels were “chemically very similar to conventional fuels” and could be used in existing aircraft without engine modifications.

Transport minister Jesse Norman said: “We are committed to cutting carbon emissions and promoting new environmentally-friendly fuels that will help us meet that goal.

“We are making funding available to innovative businesses which will lead the way in developing alternative fuels that are efficient, sustainable and clean.

“We want every new car and van in the UK to be zero emission by 2040, but we know lorries and aeroplanes will rely on more traditional fuels for years to come so we must promote environmentally-friendly alternatives.”

It is hoped the government funding will help develop five new low-carbon fuel plants by 2021.

The money is available to projects producing low-carbon waste-based fuels to be used in aircraft and lorries that cannot use electric power because they are too heavy.