The refuse-derived fuel (RDF) industry has sounded the alarm about the potential damage its exports face from Brexit.
It warned that if Brexit made this trade impossible, the UK would have to find space for some 3.6 million tonnes a year of extra materials in its landfills.
In its RDF Waste Export Brexit Briefing Note, the RDF Industry Group urged the Government and the EU to maintain arrangements that allow RDF to be exported, and ensure that a trade deal is reached which provides for zero tariff on RDF exports.
Any post-Brexit customs processes should be designed so they do not impede the export of RDF at the UK’s borders, and have sufficient staff and resources to implement them, it said.
RDF exports account for the treatment of 14% of the UK’s residual waste and are worth £500m a year, according to the group. They provide what it called “a safety valve for the waste management industry, allowing the Government time to develop future waste policy”.
The briefing said that sending RDF to other European countries for treatment was better overall for the environment than sending it to landfill, with more than 700,000 tonnes of CO2 saved in 2016 by export for treatment in Europe.
Group chair Robert Corijn, who is Attero’s marketing manager, said: “The Government and EU must act without delay to provide clarity to the industry that exports can continue without hindrance or additional cost, and ensure that any new customs process does not impede the export of RDF.”
National Association of Waste Disposal Officers secretary Jarno Stet supported the group’s demands: ”NAWDO recognises that the export of waste for energy recovery has brought environmental and economic benefits for a number of our members, allowing them to move waste up the waste hierarchy. We very much welcome working with the RDF Industry Group and the Government on this topic in years to come.”
Ella Stengler, managing director of the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants, also gave her support, saying: ”Sending waste that would otherwise be placed in landfills from the UK to other European countries, where the waste is transformed into heat and/or electricity, has an overall positive environmental outcome and ensures that the value of residual waste as a resource is fully realised.”