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RDF exports rise confounds EA prediction

RDF baler

Exports of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) in 2015 increased significantly on the previous year, according to provisional data, despite an expectation from the Environment Agency (EA) that they would level off.

The RDF Industry Group, convened by Eunomia, calculated that English exports alone reached 2.94 million tonnes in 2015, up from 2.43 million tonnes in 2014 for the whole of England and Wales, based on official data from the EA and Natural Resources Wales.

Final figures for the UK could reach 3.3 million tonnes when data from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is included.

This runs counter to predictions in an EA report last July suggesting that the market would level off due to export routes becoming more expensive. It has been the differential between UK landfill rates and the cost of exporting RDF that has driven that market since exports started in 2010.

The new data supports Eunomia’s insistence that such estimates were very conservative.

An RDF Industry Group spokesperson said: “We expect that, when more up-to-date data is released, RDF export tonnages for the UK for 2015 will exceed three million tonnes and may even be as high as 3.3 million tonnes.

“This represents a significant increase from 2014. Predictions that export growth will begin to slow significantly have not yet been realised.”

The data shows that the Netherlands imported the most RDF from the UK (1.3 million tonnes) with Germany and Sweden the other main recipients.

2015 also saw new export destinations appear on the market, with Bulgaria and Cyprus both importing RDF from England.

The group said it expects that, when more accurate data for 2015 is obtained later in the year, the total RDF export tonnage from England alone will be higher still because it will take account of data reported after the EA’s monthly reporting deadlines.

Rdf export data chart

Rdf export data chart

Waste management consultancy Monksleigh made a similar prediction in November that England was on track for just under three million tonnes of exported RDF for 2015, equating to around 14% growth by the end of the year, according to EA figures it had obtained.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I think that it is dangerous to extrapolate half a year's data and reach a sensible conclusion. You can’t re-calculate one year's data in isolation without re-calculating every year, so as to keep the difference between any two-year data consistent. This annual re-calculation has never been done before, and so it may well exaggerate the size of the increase in 2015 over 2014.
    Anyone who understands where the data is derived from will understand that this data represents RDF recovered and not RDF exported, and is very much reliant on Notifiers and Consignees registering recovered loads on a timely basis. Any RDF that is stored for over a month will miss the EA’s data cut-off for the month of export and will thus appear in the month of recovery. In a growing market this will always have the affect of appearing to make subsequent months look more buoyant than they really are.

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