Government “concerned” about refuse derived fuel quality and exports


Defra has launched a call for evidence on refuse derived fuel (RDF) as it is concerned that minimally treated material is being exported.

It is also keen to ensure that both the domestic and export markets are limited to materials that cannot be effectively recycled and the combination of fuel and technology is sufficient to deliver clear and environmental benefits.


At present, the consultation document suggests that material that could be recycled higher up the waste hierarchy is being included in RDF and this should be avoided.

On exports, the call for evidence document said: “The export of treated waste from the UK to thermal treatment facilities in the EU has recently become a more favoured management route.

“There are concerns that this is resulting in the UK economy losing a valuable resource and that it provides an outlet for waste materials that would otherwise have been pushed up the waste hierarchy.

“While there can be sound economic reasons to export RDF, the Government is concerned that minimally treated RDF being produced for export does not necessarily achieve the best environmental outcome in terms of the waste hierarchy or support wider aims around energy security and self-sufficiency.”

The call for evidence, which is for England only, asks whether there is a case for taking action to ensure that the waste hierarchy is fully applied and the environmentally beneficial outcomes of alternative waste management routes are fully realised. This could include introducing a common standard for RDF along the line of the PAS standards, but the consultation wishes to find out whether there are any potential unintended outcomes, costs or difficulties in enforcing this.

It also notes that the provisional figure for exports of RDF in 2013 is 1,587 million tonnes and one of the main drivers for this was the increase in landfill tax that was £72 per tonne last year and will rise to £80 per tonne in April 2014.

The document also raises concerns that financiers are less likely to invest in UK energy from waste infrastructure if material is being exported as a waste stream cannot be guaranteed.

View the consultation document here