The amount of refuse derived fuel (RDF) exported to the Netherlands from England has nearly halved after the Dutch government introduced a tax on the import of waste for incineration.
Environment Agency statistics, which were published yesterday (April 7), show that for the first two months of 2020, 128,255 tonnes of RDF were exported to the Netherlands, compared with 240,433 in the same period last year.
When the averages from January and February are used to calculate an estimation for March 2020, it would suggest that 64,126 tonnes were exported to the Netherlands in March, bringing the total Q1 figure to 192,381.
This would represent a 47% fall from the same period last year.
From 1 January 2020 a tax of €31 per tonne has been in place on the import of waste for incineration in the Netherlands (see letsrecycle.com story).
Andrew Gadd, manager of Footprint Services, told letsrecycle.com: “The Dutch RDF tax does appear to be having a negative impact on exports of waste-derived fuel to the Netherlands.
“If the displaced half-a-million tonnes ends up in landfill, this would mean a huge increase in road miles and complexity of logistics”
“If the displaced half-a-million tonnes ends up in landfill, this would mean a huge increase in road miles and complexity of logistics. Costs would be raised, along with CO2 emissions.
“Both economically and environmentally, this would be a poor outcome, both for the UK and also for the Netherlands, given the progress made in developing non-landfill routes for waste streams.”
With 1.2 million tonnes of RDF sent by the UK to the Netherlands in 2019, were the 47% reduction to be borne out across the whole of 2020 an alternative home would need to be found for 540,000 tonnes, Footprint Services explained.
Yesterday’s figures from the Environment Agency also showed that, overall, in the first two months of 2020 a total of 374,770 tonnes of RDF was exported from England to countries across Europe and the US.
This represents a drop of 33% on the same period in 2019.
With the average calculated and added for March, it suggests a total of 561,115 tonnes was exported overall in the first quarter of 2020, down from 816,371 in Q1 2019. This would be a 31% fall.
However, the above data has not taken into account the effect of coronavirus, according to Footprint Services.
In a report it says that, with the waste sector deemed a ‘Key Industry’ in the UK, it is difficult to tell if waste volumes will go up or down.
The consultancy said volumes may go down as businesses are instructed to cease activity, or they could increase as supermarkets report bumper trade.
The report reads: “Waste collected will still need processing, it cannot simply be stored until we emerge blinking into the sunlight, whenever that may be.
“So there will continue to be RDF and the coronavirus, on balance, may not greatly impact on tonnages.
“Still, as if Brexit and the Dutch RDF tax hadn’t given the sector enough to worry about, the strange new locked-down world presents a new unknown.”