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FCC cautious on Defra intervention in RDF market

FCC Environment has cautioned against Government intervention in the refuse-derived-fuel (RDF) market, while other companies and trade bodies have expressed support for more regulations from Defra.

In response to a call for evidence on the matter, the department has recognised a market failure in RDF production and export and said it will consider introducing a treatment standard.

586 Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor, left, chief executive at FCC Environment, questioned the viability of the move. “An RDF standard set by Defra would not make sense as European energy-from-waste facilities vary so operators should be able to define their own RDF specifications,” he said.

He added that Government intervention could create “unnecessary barriers, increase costs and artificially distort the RDF market”.

“[It] will only increase RDF production costs and reduce the viable opportunities for export, contrary to the principle of free trade across the EU.

“This will inevitably lead to an increase in landfill in the UK until at least the end of the decade when more EfW facilities are built and become operational.”

Others in the waste and recycling industry supported the proposals. The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management said it had called for the introduction of a classification system or minimum pre-treatment standard to ensure that resources are not lost to the domestic reprocessing industry.

“While we accept that legitimate market forces are driving this material abroad, [RDF export] should not simply be seen as an easier or cheaper alternative to proper sorting and separation here at home,” said chief executive Steve Lee.

The Environmental Services Association said it was pleased that Defra will be looking at a treatment standard rather than a compositional one, noting that specifications for a fuel should be determined by the end user.

Paul Levett, an industry non-executive director, described Defra’s review as “sound and timely” and said it had produced balanced proposals that would result in minimal additional costs for compliant operators.

Overall, industry members, including FCC, supported Defra’s commitment to increase its scrutiny on RDF production and export.

“We welcome Defra’s acceptance that the RDF export market is a legitimate response to global market demand for this material, albeit a market that must be properly regulated and enforced,” said Gev Eduljee, external affairs director at Sita UK.

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