UK in pole position to capitalise on RDF export market

The UK could significantly benefit from producing more refuse-derived fuel (RDF) for export to northern Europe to meet rising demand for additional feedstock.

Signs of a rapidly developing export market for RDF to countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have emerged from six months of research carried out by Tolvik Consulting.

The report UK waste exports – opportunity or threat? estimates that current incineration over-capacity in northern Europe is 6.9 million tonnes. The recently announced 713,000 tonnes per annum of permitted RDF exports would, if delivered to these plants, represent only about 10% of this over-capacity.

With only limited investment in existing waste infrastructure, the study estimates the UK could potentially produce up to 4.8 million tonnes of RDF for export, which equates to 16% of all combustible waste currently landfilled.

Gate fees across northern Europe are very competitive as waste operators seek more supply. In Germany and the Netherlands, spot gate fees are between €30 – €50 per tonne while in Sweden, gate fees in 2010 for some contracts were as low as €20 – €40 per tonne and could fall still further.

The report also identifies the risk that the UK could rapidly become dependent on RDF exports more by accident rather than design, and suggests now is the critical time for waste export policy to be debated by stakeholders.

Maxine Perella

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