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RDF Export Market Report Highlights Uncertainty of Brexit

A report on Refuse Derived Fuel exports has been released by CIWM, discussing the range of factors shaping the market.

Launched at CIWM’s presidential inauguration this month, the ‘RDF trading in a modern world’ report examines the current export landscape and models possible future scenarios, including the impact of Brexit and the EU Circular Economy Package (CEP) targets.

The report has been produced by SLR consulting Ltd who developed mass balance projections for waste sectors in the Republic of Ireland and the UK to inform understanding of the future outlook for exports.

Overall, forecasts indicate that in the event that the EU CEP 2030 requirement for 60 per cent recycling is achieved, RDF exports will reduce dramatically.

At an individual country level, the research shows a range of different market dynamics emerging across the UK.

RDF exports from the Republic of Ireland peaked in 2014 but have fallen steadily since 2017 and a further reduction in export tonnages is expected as new domestic EfW capacity is developed, and recycling rates increase. On a per capita basis, Northern Ireland has the greatest reliance on RDF exports, and this is likely to continue until domestic EfW projects are successfully developed.

In England, build out of domestic EfW capacity may erode RDF export tonnages, while future recycling levels are pivotal to the long-term outlook for exports. The report states that it is not possible to project the recycling rate ultimately achieved by England with any certainty in the current absence of a national strategy to increase recycling levels.

Scottish local authorities may look to expand RDF exports to meet the 2021 ban on landfill of biodegradable waste; though some may also opt to comply via haulage of residual waste to EfW facilities or landfills in the North of England. In the longer term, Scottish residual treatment requirements are likely to be met by emerging Scottish EfW capacity.

With strong recycling performance and two major EfW facilities in the North and South, Wales is likely to have limited reliance on RDF exports. By specifically targeting residual waste treatment funding to domestic EfW projects, the Welsh Government disincentives export.

The report highlights the “significant uncertainty” posed by Brexit, and acknowledges that the potential impact for the UK is difficult to assess at this point in time.

SLR director Alban Forster said: “In all countries, RDF exports continue to play a valuable interim role diverting material from landfill. For the UK, however, the Brexit process nevertheless raises the possibility that the practice of exporting RDF will become less economic. While it looks likely that tariffs will not apply to RDF, an onerous customs regime would add to transport times and administrative burdens.”

“The UK Government can help to limit these impacts by pressing for continuing free movement of RDF, regardless of the ultimate outcome of Brexit negotiations,” says CIWM Executive Director, Chris Murphy.

“CIWM has been keeping a close eye on developments, and liaising with Defra as they work to ensure that regulatory alignment is maintained post-Brexit, even in the event of a no-deal scenario. However, other factors such as border controls and delays, and haulage costs, could also adversely affect the economics of RDF export. Regulators across the UK will need to be alert to a number of risks in the event of significant disruption, including stockpiling and a greater risk of waste crime.”

We are a leading supplier of feedstock to energy from waste plants, helping to divert commercial, industrial, construction and demolition waste from landfill and converting it into useable fuel sources. If your business is looking to recover the value of your waste and reduce disposal costs, we can work with you to send it to a UK recovery facility, or export from your premises to overseas.

Get in touch with a member of our team on 0845 129 7177 to discuss how we can help your business or find out more on our website.

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