Defra proposes to develop definition of refuse derived fuel (RDF)


A treatment standard that sets out the processing required to make waste a refused derived fuel (RDF) has been proposed by Defra.

In its response to its consultation Refuse derived fuel market in England, Defra has suggested that following responses from the industry, it will investigate the feasibility of introducing both a simple definition for RDF as well as a more detailed treatment standard that would provide clarity to the industry and help with the standardisation of processing.


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Defra hopes that this will reduce the amount of recyclate found in RDF. But with changes coming from January 2015 that mean that paper, metal, plastic and glass from both municipal and commercial and industrial waste must be collected separately where technically, environmentally and economically practicable, then Defra wants to see the impact of this on the quality of RDF. It will also look at how proposed higher EU recycling targets will impact on the RDF market.

Both Defra and the Environment Agency will also seek to tighten enforcement including addressing illegal operations more effectively, ensuring RDF storage is subject to an environmental permit and targeting inspections and enforcement at high risk and poor performing sites.

Writing in the introduction to the document, Resources Minister Dan Rogerson (pictured) said: “The Government is keen to ensure that the RDF market delivers clear environmental benefits in terms of waste management and fully respects the principles of the waste hierarchy and of free trade.

“The practice of producing RDF and exporting it to energy from waste facilities elsewhere in the European Union is becoming a more commonplace method of managing residual waste. It provides an important outlet for waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill and instead is used to produce energy, usually in the form of both electricity and heat.

“The growing popularity of this waste management option is demonstrated by the rapid increase in exports of RDF from virtually nil before 2010 to 1,585,781 tonnes in 2013 (provisional figure). Exporting RDF for energy recovery complies with global market principles and, for most materials, is environmentally preferential to disposing of the waste in landfill, especially where the facilities use both the heat and electricity produced.

“However, it is vital that the waste hierarchy is followed in the production, use and export of RDF. This will ensure that only truly residual waste, which has been properly treated, is exported.

“That is why we will look to develop a definition of RDF and a standard for its treatment, so we can be confident that all practicably recyclable materials are removed. We see a definition and a standard as also providing greater clarity and consistency across the RDF market, ensuring that any waste, which is still technically mixed municipal waste following minimal treatment, is not classed as RDF.”

View the full response at