7 September 2015 by Michael Holder

RDF export begins levelling off

Tonnages of refuse derived fuel (RDF) exported from England and Wales continue to show year-on-year growth, with a record 1,363,809 tonnes sent abroad for energy recovery during the first six months of 2015.

RDF export tonnages continue to grow (click to englarge graph)

RDF export tonnages continue to grow (click to englarge graph)

However, with just over 170,000 tonnes more RDF exported than during the same period in 2014, the rapid growth in the market seen over the past five years appears to be slowing down.

According to the Environment Agency’s provisional international shipment data obtained by letsrecycle.com, 1,363,809 tonnes of RDF was exported from England and Wales from January to June 2015, while 1,193,281 tonnes of RDF was sent abroad during the same period in 2014.

Nevertheless, should there be a similar overall tonnage exported in final six months of 2015 as in the first, this year will see a total of more than 2.6 million tonnes of RDF sent abroad. Analysis by consultancy firm Tolvik earlier this year had predicted that export tonnages were likely to peak at around 2.5 million (see letsrecycle.com story).

A record 2.37 million tonnes of RDF was exported from England and Wales in 2014 – an increase of around 750,000 tonnes from the 1.58 million tonnes of RDF exported in 2013.

So far in 2015, the Netherlands continues to be the largest export destination for RDF from England and Wales, with 611,991 tonnes of the material received up to the end of June. Germany is the second largest, receiving 314,000 tonnes, with Sweden accepting 218,000.

Portugal, Norway and Latvia appear to be emerging markets for material from England and Wales, with tonnages of material accepted growing.

Largest RDF exporters by company

Largest RDF exporters by company (click to enlarge graph)

Biffa looks set to continue as the largest individual exporter of RDF to the continent, having shipped around 136,000 tonnes of the material in the first six months of the year.

"I think you will see a smaller levels of increase from now on – we have got over the initial curve."

Steve Burton
Director, Andusia Recovered Fuels Ltd

SITA UK (now Suez) is the second largest exporter of material, sending 128,000 tonnes overseas, followed by Andusia Recovered Fuels (121,000 tonnes).

Asked whether growth in the RDF export market was showing signs of slowing, Steve Burton of Andusia told letsrecycle.com: “I guess we saw that coming. There just isn’t the capacity in the plants anymore. It is a tough market and the only way to get into it is to pay more. It is all marginal increases now.”

“Under the current economic climate I would say it has.

“I think you will see a smaller levels of increase from now on – we have got over the initial curve. But if landfill tax went up around £8 a year then there could be more investment to send RDF further afield into new markets. Newer markets tend to be less accessible generally.”

RDF export markets

RDF export markets (click to enlarge graph)

  • For an in-depth look at the UK’s RDF industry, join us in November for the 2015 RDF Conference.
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