According to Environment Agency data published by letsrecycle.com, the quantity of RDF received from the UK increased from 272,000 tonnes in 2011 to 892,900 tonnes in 2012. This is roughly equivalent to a rise from 0.36 million to 1.2 million tonnes of waste, as it takes around 1.33 tonnes of waste to produce 1 tonne of RDF due to water loss.
The accompanying letsrecycle.com article quoted Richard Benyon MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs) as stating that: “The export for energy recovery of waste pre-treated to give a refuse derived fuel can have advantages over managing it within the UK, for example if the alternative UK treatment route is more costly or more harmful environmentally…”
This is a similar argument to that covered by UKWIN in our October 2012 coverage of an Isonomia article by Eunomia Principal Consultant Adam Baddeley which critiques the case for increasing domestic incineration capacity to treat RDF that would otherwise be exported elsewhere in Europe.
If we start building RDF infrastructure now then it will lead to massive overcapacity in the future (which many have warned against), as Europe is moving to “bring residual waste close to zero” as part of a move towards a resource-efficient circular economy which would mean close to zero RDF feedstock (especially considering the 25% reduction in mass as RDF is produced and the fact that not all waste is combustible).