CIWM report queries long-term viability of RDF export market


A report produced for CIWM has raised concerns about the ongoing future of the RDF export market.

Produced by AMEC Environment & Infrastructure UK for CIWM, the report brings together the latest data on export destinations and volumes, as well as exploring current practices, standards and regulatory approaches.


It also considers this export trade in the context of UK and Irish requirements for renewable and alternative energy sources.

CIWM scientific and technical committee chair Margaret Bates said: “This work raises a number of important questions about the long term viability of this export trade in the context of broader strategic objectives with regards to waste, resources and energy, as well as concerns about current practices and the need for a robust regulatory approach.”

The report says there is a need to consider whether demand from near-EU countries for waste-derived fuel from the UK and Ireland is likely to continue at the same level and the implications if it doesn’t.

There are a number of newer EU member states that need to rapidly increase landfill diversion to meet EU targets, which could place more waste-derived fuel onto the market.

In addition, the report raises concern over RDF exports and says an improved regulatory framework is needed to ensure that unsorted or inadequately sorted waste cannot be exported as RDF.

It also warns that RDF production “does not dovetail with the desired direction of travel towards greater resource efficiency and security”.

 With the UK likely to need additional energy capacity, the report also says 5 per cent of the UK’s energy needs could be provided by material that is exported.

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “In the short term, CIWM believes that a more rigorous and consistent enforcement framework needs to be put in place, and further work done to assess the viability of developing a classification system or minimum pre-treatment standard for RDF. In addition to ensuring illegal activities are curbed, we believed this is an essential measure to ensure that valuable material resources are not being lost to the domestic reprocessing industry and the UK/Irish economy as a whole.

“In the longer term, while accepting that legitimate market forces are driving this material abroad, CIWM believes that we need to better understand and quantify the extent to which this trade could compromise investment in domestic infrastructure and the UK and Ireland’s ability to fulfil their obligations with regard to moving waste up the hierarchy and moving towards a more resource efficient and circular economy.

“In addition, from an energy perspective, this issue highlights a wider malaise affecting waste policy and its relationship with other key policy areas such as energy diversity and security. While we need to avoid creating the same overcapacity problem now being faced by other EU states, the lack of a longer term, coherent strategy to ensure that the potential of residual waste as a domestic energy source is not squandered is an issue that the Institution will continue to raise with the relevant policy makers.

“Ultimately, in terms of the bigger picture, CIWM has already previously highlighted the need for a proper plan that brings resources and energy together. In the absence this, we will inevitably continue to see ad hoc, market driven solutions employed that will not necessarily meet longer term sustainability goals.”