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Industry & Regulators Agree on RDF Definition & Exports

The definition of RDF and UK exports of RDF from the UK were the subject of two-panel discussions at RWM earlier in September. The panels included the Environment Agency, industry representatives, a local authority representative and consultants from the UK and Europe.

RDF Definition

Discussion on a definition for refuse-derived fuel has been prompted by a draft definition of RDF circulated to waste management companies by the Environment Agency in July and it came into both sessions. Speaking at the panel session discussing the future of RDF exports, Pandora Rene, Senior Technical Advisor at the Environment Agency, expressed the view that a detailed technical standard would not be the best way forward for the industry. The draft definition for RDF as circulated in July states it is:

“A fuel produced from residual waste that meets an end-user contractual specification for recovery at an energy-from-waste facility.” The EA has said this concise draft definition is aimed at ensuring only companies with genuine contracts enter the sector, instead of on “a speculative basis without concern for final destination”.

Industry specialists on the panel agreed that a detailed definition is not necessary. Pembrokeshire Council project manager Daniel John, who oversees Pembrokeshire’s RDF exports agreed, saying that the market should provide the standard – as producers need to meet the requirements of energy from waste plants.

This view was echoed in a later panel discussion – “Refuse derived fuel production and working towards consistency” – where it was agreed that a technical standard would not be appropriate as RDF is manufactured to meet the differing requirements of the end-user. In this session panellists focussed on the perception of RDF as waste disposal rather than renewable heat. They see the persisting perception in the UK of waste-derived fuel as waste, rather than an energy source, as a barrier to the development of the market.

RDF Exports

In the session exploring UK RDF exports, Dick Hoogendoorn, Managing Director of the Dutch Waste Management Association, said he saw the RDF market as essentially North-East Europe as little material goes much further.  He said around 80% of the 1.6 million tonnes of RDF imported into the Netherlands in 2014 came from the UK. Mark Terrell, alternative fuels manager for Suez said export to the continent will continue as there will be a capacity gap in the UK for some years to come.

He said it is important to get the most out of waste, both environmentally and economically, and export currently achieves this. Speaking for the regulator Pandora Rene said the EA want to support the industry to use waste in the best way possible – and are working to close down the illegal businesses who undermine the industry to make sure this happens.

Adam Baddley of consultants Eunomia said we can expect a little more growth in RDF exports over the next 2 – 3 years and that seasonality is a factor often not taken into account in market reports. Both Dick Hoogendorn and Mark Tyrell expressed the view that the market should be perceived as a European one – agreeing that UK exports to North East Europe by sea have less environmental impact and are more economic than hauling it across the UK by road.  Chair Gareth Simkins of ENDS rounded up this session by concluding it looks like RDF exports will be with us for some time to come.

At Clarity, we offer an expanding network of RDF outlets and work across the UK and export market. To find out more about our RDF solutions call our team on 0845 129 7177.

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