Refuse derived fuel (RDF) exports from the UK to Europe and beyond are expected to have reached 3.3 million tonnes in 2015, representing a near-500,000 tonnes increase on the previous year.
These are the findings of research published yesterday (February 24) by Eunomia on behalf of the RDF Industry Group set up by the consultancy last summer. The Group’s 23 members include Biffa, Veolia, Shanks, as well as Dutch firms Twence and AEB Amsterdam BV.
Eunomia said the findings showed that previous estimates by commentators of a slow-down in exports up to a peak at around 2.5 million tonnes “were very conservative”.
Nevertheless, official EA export figures suggest the large growth in RDF exports since 2010 has slowed-down over the last two years, while a number of operators have recently reported much greater competition for spare capacity at EfW plants in Europe.
Based on provisional data from the Environment Agency, exports from England along had already been expected to pass the 2.75 million tonnes-mark in 2015 (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, Eunomia now claims to have “obtained more accurate official figures for the first half of 2015, boosting the total by some 100,000 tonnes” from that reported by the EA in its monthly publications.
As such, the Industry Group expects that when more accurate data is also obtained for the second half of 2015, this will boost the total RDF export tonnage higher still, which will then be complimented with data from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to give a full UK picture.
Based on data from the EA and Natural Resources Wales, the Group calculates that English exports alone reached 2.94 million tonnes in 2015, up from the 2.43 million tonnes figure for both England and Wales during the previous year.
The data for England reportedly shows that the Netherlands received the largest quantity of waste (1.3 million tonnes), thereby retaining its market lead from the previous year. Meanwhile, England’s second largest RDF recipient was Germany at 700,000 tonnes (up by 200,000 from 2014), followed by Sweden on 410,000 tonnes.
In addition, the new markets of Bulgaria and Cyprus both featured on the English RDF recipient list for the first time last year.
A spokesperson for the 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.”
Launched in June 2015, the RDF Industry Group comprises waste management and EfW firms and operators from both the UK and Europe in order to “communicate its work to third parties… in the form of reports, presentations or other communications material”.
A previous report released on behalf of the Group in September 2015 concluded that transporting waste to Europe from the UK as RDF is a “very minor contributor” to total CO2 emissions (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, Eunomia received criticism in December 2015 after producing a separate EfW report for f Zero Waste Europe. EfW body the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy (CEWEP) claimed that the Zero Waste Europe report ignored the environmental benefits of ‘efficient’ recovery plants in order to “justify political conclusions” (see letsrecycle.com story).