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Strong start for RDF exports in 2016

The latest provisional Environment Agency data suggests exports of refuse derived fuel (RDF) from the UK have shown a strong start to the year, with more than 600,000 tonnes of material sent to Europe during January and February.

This data shows a considerable increase of almost 150,000 tonnes compared to the same period last year, suggesting that the UK market is continuing to grow in response to demand from energy from waste facilities in the likes of the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia.

However, the provisional figures are currently only available for the first two months of 2016 and some industry insiders believe the January and February tonnage could include some ‘overhang’ from the end of 2015.

This is because data is somewhat reliant on notifiers and consignees of material registering any recovered loads on a timely basis, and RDF can be stored for longer than a month after export before it is registered.

The overall tonnage exported throughout the whole of 2015 reached a new high with the year closing in on the 3 million tonnes mark. However, the data also suggested that the level of year-on-year growth was starting to slow.

Nevertheless, the latest Agency TFS (transfrontier of shipment) figures do provide an indication that the huge export market growth since 2010 is far from flattening out entirely, despite previous predictions from the likes of consultancy Tolkvik that the market would peak at 2.5 million tonnes exported annually.

A report published earlier in 2016 by consultancy Eunomia, which leads the RDF export industry group, claimed that that 2015 RDF exports could have reached as much as 3.3 million tonnes – a near 500,000 increase on 2014.

10 countries received RDF from the UK in January and February this year, with the largest takers of material remaining the Netherlands (280,000 tonnes), Germany (120,000) and Sweden (100,000).

Reports from UK operators and European EfW plants suggest that longer-term contracts are now being agreed with capacity filling up at on the continent and larger operators seeking to buy up contracts and consolidate the market.

With some EfW plants modifying prices in response, this has pushed operating costs and RDF gate fee prices up somewhat in the last couple of months, forcing some UK operators to look further afield for spare capacity as well as encouraging greater consolidation of the market.

Guy Cherry, Managing Director at GPT Waste, said:

“At somewhere in the region of 58,000 tonnes per week of material that could well have ended up in landfill, being exported as a fuel source, it’s clear the effect Waste to Energy is now having whilst also contributing not insignificantly to our export profile. Established facilities on the continent and further afield looking for feedstock, represent a great opportunity alongside our UK based facilities for providing a sustainable end route process for waste that can’t be reused or recycled.”


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