2015 RDF exports could reach 3.3m tonnes

2015 RDF exports could reach 3.3m tonnesExports of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from England and Wales grew by over half a million tonnes in 2015, according to the RDF Industry Group.

The group, which was formed in 2015 by members of the waste and resources industry to explore and address issues surrounding RDF export from the UK, calculates that 2.94 million tonnes of RDF was exported from England alone in 2015, up from the 2.43 million tonnes reported by the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales for both England and Wales combined in 2014.

English figures for the first half 2015, the group says, are more accurate and official than those used by the environmental regulators for their monthly updates, and boost the total by around 100,000 tonnes compared to those reported by the EA.

It expects that when more accurate data for later in 2015 is obtained, the total RDF export tonnage will be greater still. This data will be complemented by data from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with each country now managing exports separately.

The RDF Industry Group predicts that the final export figures for the UK will reach as much as 3.3 million tonnes for 2015.


The data obtained by the group for England shows that the largest quantity of RDF exports ended up in the Netherlands (1.3 million tonnes), as it did in 2014.

Germany was the second-largest recipient at 0.7 million tonnes, an increase of almost 0.2 million tonnes from 2014, followed by Sweden at 0.41 million tonnes.

The data also revealed that new markets have emerged for English RDF, with Bulgaria and Cyprus both being reported as destinations for exports for the first time.

2015 RDF exports could reach 3.3m tonnes
Source: Environment Agency / Natural Resource Wales

Predicted slowing of growth not yet realised

Eunomia Research & Consulting acts as the secretariat of the group and says that while many commentators, including the EA, expected RDF exports to ‘level off’ after their sudden emergence (monthly RDF exports rose from zero in June 2010 to 215,000 tonnes in January 2015) and peak at 2.5 million tonnes a year, it has maintained since 2014 that such estimates were very conservative.

In response to the data release, a spokesperson for the RDF Industry Group said: “We expect that when more up-to-date data is released, RDF export tonnages for the UK for 2015 will exceed 3 million tonnes, and may even be as high as 3.3 million tonnes. This represents a significant increase from 2014. Predictions that export growth will begin to slow significantly have not yet been realised.”

Group denies environmental harm from practice

A report released by the RDF Industry Group in September defended the practice of exporting waste, claiming that there would be virtually no environmental benefit to domestically processing the RDF currently being exported from the UK.

This sharp increase led to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) issuing a call for evidence on the RDF market, in particular seeking assurance that the waste hierarchy is followed in the production, use and export of RDF, and that only ‘truly residual waste’ is exported.

According to the ‘Analysis of the Legal, Economic and Environmental Rationales’ report, current levels of RDF export is ‘unlikely to result in any net increase in CO2 emissions from residual waste treatment’, though the level of emissions depends on the infrastructure used in the process. ‘Even when the shipping distance is increased by 1,700 miles’, it reads, ‘total emissions for the export scenarios only rise by one per cent.’

The RDF Industry Group’s ‘Analysis of the Legal, Economic and Environmental Rationales’ report can be downloaded from Eunomia’s website.