New RDF Definition To Be Adoped Following Positive Feedback

An updated definition for refuse-derived fuel (RDF) trialled within the industry for six months will be adopted, following positive feedback, Defra has said.

The aim of the definition is to help the Environment Agency regulate the RDF sector so that any waste described as RDF is legitimate and has a definite end-user.

This will help address cases of waste described as RDF being abandoned or causing environmental problems such as leaching, after being stockpiled for long periods. Legitimate businesses in the RDF sector should be unaffected by the definition, Defra says.

The definition will now be adopted on a permanent basis with some minor modifications to the wording in line with comments received:

“Refuse derived fuel (RDF) consists of residual waste that complies with the specifications in a written contract between the producer of the RDF and a permitted end-user for the thermal treatment of the waste in an energy from waste facility or a facility undertaking co-incineration such as cement and lime kilns. The written contract must include the end-user’s technical specifications relating as a minimum to the calorific value, the moisture content, the form and quantity of the RDF.”

The Environment Agency will use the definition in its day to day work with the RDF sector.

The definition follows a commitment made in Defra’s response to its call for evidence on the RDF market in England in 2014 that both Defra and the Environment Agency would look to develop a definition and a possible treatment standard for RDF.

Dr Colin Church – “It’s good to see Defra and EA tackling the issue of ‘false’ RDF. With exports topping 3.2Mt in 2016 we need to be sure that the material leaving our shores is doing so legitimately, both to protect the environment and to ensure a level playing field for lawful operators”

Subsequent discussion with industry showed little support for a treatment standard, which would duplicate existing requirements such as the rules for separate collection of recyclable materials and have difficulty capturing in a single document all the processes by which waste could be treated to produce RDF.

However, a short, light-touch definition that clarified what was expected of RDF without being too prescriptive was agreed and this was trialled with industry between 8 February and 7 August last year.

Operators and regulators were asked for feedback on the definition and its performance during the trial. The feedback was generally positive but there were some suggestions for minor modifications to the wording for the purposes of clarification.

The definition that will be adopted on a permanent basis reflects this feedback, Defra said.

Welcoming the descicion, CIWM’s chief executive, Dr Colin Church, said: “It’s good to see Defra and EA tackling the issue of ‘false’ RDF. With exports topping 3.2Mt in 2016 we need to be sure that the material leaving our shores is doing so legitimately, both to protect the environment and to ensure a level playing field for lawful operators”


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  1. This is way overdue. The IW2EB (International W2E Bulleting) has been producing the W2E/AEI Index for over 12 months referencing both specs for RDF and SRF. The index enables all parties (counterparts) to trade based on realistic sustainable and standard specs. The specs have been derived by both the producers and consumers of RDF and SRF.

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