Refuse derived fuel (RDF) is to be exported for the first time after the Environment Agency recently approved an application for the move.
Shanks Waste Management will export 40,000 tonnes of the fuel pellets to Holland and Germany in the next 12 months to be used as feedstock in energy from waste facilities.
RDF is made from treated municipal solid waste, which adds calorific value, making it safe to burn as a fuel.
A spokesperson for the EA refuted claims made in The Telegraph that the UK is using RDF as a way of legalising the export of household waste for burning. She said: “RDF is not household waste. RDF is derived from waste that has been through a series of processes, some chemical, to add calorific value including drying, sorting, grading and shredding. It is then turned into pellets or bales. It is not the contents of your kitchen bin. It’s not a change in label - it is a change of product.
“RDF for recovery and recycling can be exported from the UK to other EU countries if approval is granted. Energy recovery of a fuel is not dumping. Exporting waste overseas to be dumped is illegal.”
Shanks is using the waste created by East London through its PFI contract with them, which it secured in 2003. UK managing director Ian Goodfellow told MRW: “We have been sending RDF to cement kilns. But because of reduced production in the construction industry, the amount required by the off-takers has reduced a little. There are not many large industrial heat users able to take RDF in the UK, so we identified a gap in the market to send it to Holland.”
Shanks has offices in the Netherlands, where colleagues alerted the UK offices to the demand for RDF in energy from waste facilities out there.
Goodfellow said there was scope to increase the tonnage being sent over to Holland, but first they want to ensure both parties are happy with the arrangement.
Shanks had to demonstrate to both the UK authorities and Dutch authorities that it was suitable for export and had been through a thorough treatment process. “The Dutch authorities will not take raw domestic waste. We’re pleased they have found it worthy of export,” Goodfellow added.
Furthermore, he does not believe that this will necessarily make RDF a global commodity as other waste companies may not have the same structure allowing them to also export the combustible fuel. He said: “It is unlikely because at the moment, we are probably the ‘only’ company to operate an MBT facility, which is just a short distance from Holland. Other waste companies may not be in the same position as Shanks.”