Defra calls for evidence on RDF market

Defra has issued a call for evidence on the refuse derived fuel (RDF) market in England in order to "fill the gaps" in its evidence base.

Defra is calling on those working in, or with, the energy-from-waste (EfW) industry to submit evidence on the following areas:

·How RDF is made and who uses it;

·The ‘issues’ with domestic use of refuse-derived fuel;

·The ‘challenges’ faced in exporting this type of fuel; and

·Whether government action is needed to improve the market (particularly in terms of achieving environmental benefits), and what this should be.

The call for evidence document outlines that within the waste hierarchy, EfW has an important role to play but there needs to be an emphasis on “getting the most energy out of the residual waste, rather than to get the most waste into energy recovery”.

In its call for evidence document, Defra said that the Government is “keen to ensure that RDF produced for both the domestic market and for export is limited to material which cannot be effectively recycled, and the combination of fuel and technology is sufficient to deliver clear environmental benefits”.

Defra also said that it was concerned that minimally treated material was being exported. In the document, Defra stated: “The export of treated waste from the UK to thermal treatment facilities in the EU has recently become a more favoured management route.

“There are concerns that this is resulting in the UK economy losing a valuable resource and that it provides an outlet for waste materials that would otherwise have been pushed up the waste hierarchy.

“While there can be sound economic reasons to export RDF, the Government is concerned that minimally treated RDF being produced for export does not necessarily achieve the best environmental outcome in terms of the waste hierarchy or support wider aims around energy security and self-sufficiency.”

It also highlights that as there is currently no formal definition or standard for RDF either in EU legislation or in domestic legislation, the current level of pre-treatment for RDF can be minimal, meaning that the waste is ‘in essence very similar to unsorted waste in its nature’. It adds that it may be useful to make a clear distinction between ‘waste-derived fuel’ and untreated municipal solid waste (such as Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s regulatory position statement on the sort of treatment needed before a waste can be classified as RDF).

Respondents have until 9 May to submit their responses to Defra.

Liz Gyekye

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