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New Analysis of UK RDF Export Market

A new report from Eunomia Research – “RDF Export, Analysis of Legal, Economic and Environmental Rationales” has been drafted for the RDF Industry Export Group to examine opportunities and issues around RDF export from the UK. Members of the RDF Group, which was formed last year, include incinerator operators and exporters. The RDF export industry has grown hugely since it was authorised in 2010. The largest quantity of waste exported – 1.3 million tonnes in 2014 – has been to The Netherlands, with 0.5 million tonnes going to both Sweden and Germany last year – a volume that is increasing.

On economic implications, the report finds both costs and benefits in terms of the economic impacts of RDF export – in particular, potential cost savings to local authorities and business, including:

  • RDF export has increased competition, exerting some downward pressure on gate fees paid by UK producers of waste to UK operators
  • It provides a lower cost outlet for both businesses and local authorities
  • While some UK jobs may be lost due to RDF export there are alternative employment opportunities created in waste collection and transfer, and at ports handling RDF from delivery to loading of cargo vessels

On legislation, this report finds that the introduction of any kind of treatment standard to be introduced for exported RDF would be challenging and costly both to Government and industry and would also have to apply residual waste treated in the UK.  Eunomia says a more cost-effective and environmentally preferable approach would be to simply follow the waste hierarchy by ensuring the removal of recyclables.

In this scenario, Defra and the Environment Agency should focus on regulating and incentivising the greater capture of recyclable materials (including food waste) at source, from both local authority and commercial and industrial wastes. It is concluded therefore that Defra and the EA should consider how this might be achieved through better enforcement of regulations. In the context of encouraging recycling at source, an advantage of RDF export is its flexibility. Eunomia say that investment in waste infrastructure in the UK should not be discouraged, rather it is important to focus on the right type and scale of infrastructure that is needed.

On environmental impacts and benefits, the study findings include:

  • Transport is a minor contributor to total carbon dioxide emissions. Emissions from transport are four times greater for export scenarios than in the UK scenarios), but account for just 3% of total emissions, and shipping emissions 1% or less
  • The relative performance of RDF export scenarios and domestic scenarios depends upon the infrastructure used
  • RDF export is currently unlikely to result in any net increase in carbon dioxide emissions from residual waste treatment

No links were found between the legitimate growth of the RDF export industry and cases of waste being abandoned and sometimes ignited. RDF export requires tracking of waste through Trans-Frontier Shipment (TFS) certificates, so a mechanism is already in place requiring operators exporting waste to comply with the notification controls procedure. The report concludes that UK RDF exports have not, therefore, led to an increase in waste crime.

David Adams, Clarity Managing Director, said: “We welcome the findings of this latest market report from Eunomia which show that UK RDF exports continue to provide an important element of the waste hierarchy. There can be cost savings for business and local authorities, providing a compliant route for residual waste disposal without increasing the impact of waste management on the environment.”

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

Our team will also be at RWM at the NEC Birmingham, 15 – 17 September – come to talk to us there on stand 4N39 and find out more.

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