EA admits concerns over RDF definition consistency

An official definition clarifying what is expected of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) producers in England has raised some concerns of inconsistency across other parts of the UK, the Environment Agency revealed today (25 November). But, it will be an important tool in tackling abuse of waste regulations by companies looking to operate illegally in the waste sector, the Agency has emphasised.

Speaking at the annual RDF Conference in London, Pandora Rene, EA senior policy advisor, accepted there were  some ‘mixed feelings’ from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the definition issued by Defra last week.

Pandora Rene, senior policy advisor at the Environment Agency, outlined what the RDF definition means for the industry

The definition, which suggests RDF should be subject to “end-user technical specifications relating to calorific value, moisture content, form and quantity”, took over a year to develop and will be trialled with the industry for a six-month period starting early 2016 (see letsrecycle.com story).


Mrs Rene explained the advantages of having a definition which had been developed with the support of the industry.

And, she said: “The reason we were asked to do this [RDF] definition in England is because there’s already extensive guidance in other parts of the UK. Some of our industry colleagues thought they had gone a step too far and needed something that applies to England.

“They have mixed feelings about what we are doing. They do have concerns currently in Northern Ireland where there have been issues surrounding cross border movements of waste to Ireland, also around strict recycling requirements by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Natural Resources Wales.

“So I think there are issues that our definition is not set up to address that they would like to address. Our definition is just for England and is just trialling in England.”


(l-r): Ricardo AEA's Stephen Wise, the EA's Pandora Rene, Diarmid Johnson of SLR Consulting and session chair Steve Eminton, editor of letsrecycle.com
(l-r): Ricardo AEA’s Stephen Wise, the EA’s Pandora Rene, Diarmid Johnson of SLR Consulting and session chair Steve Eminton, editor of letsrecycle.com

Also speaking during the first session of the conference – chaired by letsrecycle.com editor Steve Eminton – were Diarmid Johnson, technical director at SLR Consulting, and Stephen Wise, principal consultant of Ricardo-AEA.

Giving an overview of RDF in 2015, Mr Johnson said the market was ‘buoyant’ and clearly set to grow. However, he added demand in Europe is large but falling, with exports expected to level off and slow in the near future.

Mr Wise added that despite the Energy Secretary’s “silence” on energy from waste in her policy announcement last week, many investors are no longer relying on subsidies to make plants financially viable.

He envisaged that the “capacity grab is here to stay until 2020” and possibly beyond.


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