Confidence in RDF market remains despite decline

The latest statistics published by the Environment Agency show that exports of refuse derived fuel (RDF) continue to fall in England, but confidence remains in the market.  

The data, published on Monday (11 October), was for the first eight months of 2021 and showed that exports have fallen a further 15.3% when compared to 2020.

In the year to August 2021, around 1,012,994 tonnes have been exported, compared with 1,197,125 in 2020.

As outlined below, in each month there was a downturn year-on-year, except in May 2021, when two large exports by Probio to Bulgaria and Sweden propped up the figures.

All months except for May saw a decline in 2021

The data suggests the continuation of the steady decline in RDF exports from England, attributed to myriad factors including the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on commercial waste services, as well as the introduction of taxes in the Netherlands and Sweden.


However, RDF exporters told that they are “confident of a strong winter period” as the UK recovers from the pandemic.

Others have also said that demand is strong in other sector of the UK which are not widely covered by energy from waste facilities.

And, some have raised concern that the data published by EA does not paint an entirely accurate picture.

UK market

Geminor is the largest exporter of RDF, and says demand remains strong throughout the UK

James Maiden, country manager for the UK at Geminor, the largest exporter of RDF in the UK, says the company “is not surprised to see the continued decline in the volume of RDF exports from England”.

However, he said other parts of the UK continue to see high demand for RDF exports.

Mr Maiden explained: “As the UK EfW fleet is built out it is inevitable that less material would be available for export, in the areas of the country served by new domestic infrastructure.

“There are of course significant areas of the UK where there remains lower EfW capacity, for example Scotland and Northern Ireland. Geminor has long established export business in such markets and has increased the supply from these areas accordingly. Exports from these devolved jurisdictions are not included in this data.

“Demand within the export market remains consistent as we approach another winter season. We do not expect exports of RDF to end any time soon.”


Steve Burton, director of Andusia, said the data as it stands is not an exact reflection on the market

The data from the Environment Agency is only provisional, and subject to change once confirmed at the end of the year.

Steve Burton, the director of Andusia, explained to that the provisional data “jumps around all over the place”, describing it as a record of what had been recovered as opposed to what was actually shipped.

He explained: “This means any overseas storage isn’t in the figures yet. Looking at what we have, and the EA data there is 56,000 tonnes different I can see straight away. Our figures are holding up, and others doing incredibly well, but everyone else looks a long way down at the moment.”


A downturn in RDF exports was anticipated when lockdowns were introduced, as this is often a route for the treatment of commercial waste, which saw volumes drop drastically in this period.

Stuart Rain, director at Probio Energy, explained that in recent years the increase in taxes and subsequent lockdowns have had an impact. However, he said that, with waste volumes returning to normal levels, he was confident of a strong winter ahead.


Kevin Sibley, head of alternative fuels for Totus Environmental, which exports RDF and SRF, said that while exports are continuing to decline, “there is still strong demand for material and this will continue to be the case”.

Export transport prices for containers and trailers have risen by around 25% this year
– Kevin Sibley, Totus Environmental

Mr Sibley said that a variety of factors were behind the reductions this year including increased demand from UK EfW plants. He commented: “Another reasons is that export transport prices for containers and trailers have risen by around 25% this year and we’re also aware of some producers landfilling more than in the past.”

In terms of continental demand for RDF and SRF this winter, he said that the level of recovery across different countries after the pandemic will be a factor. Mr Sibley noted that there are varying views on how demand by plants will play out. “Some energy from waste operators in Sweden, for example, feel that there will be no shortage of material while on the other hand suppliers suggest that there could be a shortage, although this won’t be as severe as last winter.”

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