The amount of refuse derived fuel exported from the UK each year increased by more than 270,000 tonnes in three years.
Figures released by ministers reveal the amount of processed solid waste exported for use as fuel abroad rose from zero in 2008 to 272,200 tonnes in 2011.
Defra minister Richard Benyon said while data for 2012 was not yet available, estimates show a “substantial increase” in exports from 2011.
In a written response to a Parliamentary question, Benyon said: “The move to divert municipal waste from landfill and increases in landfill tax mean that it can now be more economic for companies to export this material than to send it to landfill.”
He added: “As with other types of waste, refuse derived fuel is a commodity that can legitimately be exported, as long as this is in accordance with the requirements of the EU Waste Shipments Regulation.”
Waste firm Shanks has been lobbying for solid recovered fuel to be reclassified it can be more easily used within the UK rather than exported. Ian Goodfellow, Shanks’ UK managing director, told MRW: “The biggest constraint stopping us from harnessing SRF in the UK is that this fuel is currently classified as waste, not as a product. This classification issue is a roadblock to developing the technology and is stopping the UK from benefiting from a fuel that Europe has utilised for the past 20 years.”