Stansted is to become the first major UK airport to trial the use of fully compostable security bags for passengers carrying liquids in their hand luggage.

They could replace 11 million non-compostable plastic bags which are handed out in the terminal every year.

Airport staff will be distributing 50,000 of the compostable bags to passengers during one of the busiest weeks of the year for the airport as the Christmas getaway starts to take off.

Stansted has worked closely with the Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority to approve the trial of the compostable bags for use in security.

The bags are produced by PMC Polythene, which specialises in the manufacture of recyclable polythene products from recycled UK sourced waste.

The test will be used to seek passengers’ feedback on the bags and also their wider attitudes to travelling sustainably through the airport.

Passengers who prefer to use the existing bags will be reminded to re-use them as many times as possible when travelling in the future or for other purposes such as sandwich bags, carrying make-up or household storage.

Staff will also be encouraging passengers to bring refillable bottles and refill them at its water fountains and asking for their views on other related issues such as carbon offsetting and using public transport to access the airport.

The test is the result of ideas put forward by airport security workers Daniel Bryan, Carol Morgan and Edita Andrews, who suggested more sustainable options could be considered for security bags, and to encourage passengers to only take as many bags as they need for their journey.

Stansted environment manager Martin Churley said: “Our first message to passengers is to think carefully about how often they use the non-recyclable plastic bags. They can obviously be used again for a return flight, but there are plenty of other uses for them if you’re not a frequent flyer, so we’re urging people to avoid throwing them away after they fly.

“However, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to cut down on waste, and trialling new compostable bags is just another example of how we are is leading the way in tackling some of the local environmental impacts which come with running this small town that we oversee here at London Stansted.”

Bryan added: “Working in the frontline security operation, we see thousands of passengers passing through every day, each with their liquids in a non-recyclable plastic bag, so it made sense to suggest finding an alternative bag that was more environmentally friendly.

“While passengers can of course reuse the current bags multiple times, I think it’s important we do all we can to put sustainability at the heart our operation, so I’m delighted we are the first major airport in the UK to trial these new compostable bags.”

It has been a legal requirement since 2006 for passengers to place all liquids, aerosols and gels in containers of no more than 100ml into clear, re-sealable bags in their hand luggage.