Yesterday, the RDF Industry Group called for the UK government to input a level playing field on carbon costs between exporters and UK incinerator operators. According to the industry group, which represents 37 companies in the RDF sector, the call is to ensure that infrastructure across Europe is efficiently used, and waste management costs minimised.
This comes after the UK government proposed the inclusion of EfW in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) as part of their Net Zero by 2050 plan. The Energy from Waste sector has been added to these plans by the Government and will join the scheme by 2028. The RDF Industry Group have strongly argued for robust border adjustment measures to account for any national differences in the implementation of ETS. Andy Jones, Chair of the RDF Industry group said:
Mechanisms such as free allowances or carbon border adjustments are already used to take account of global trading in other areas, and there is no reason why the same can’t be done in the UK in relation to energy from waste (EfW) and the ETS.
Jones highlighted that few of the UK’s EfW plants have suitable facilities to use RDF waste efficiently, which is why RDF is often exported to Europe. He noted that there is potential for this to result in lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions long-term, as Northern European plants have efficient ‘combined heat and power’ (CHP) facilities.
The ESA called for a ban on RDF exports once there is a sufficient UK EfW capacity. Jones sees this as "short sighted" and claimed that ESA members are 'over-competing with one another as if waste is limitless, leaving them staring into a waste supply blackhole in the future’.
Unfortunately, instead of seeing exports as part of the transition to a circular economy, the UK waste sector – still dominated by disposal and treatment rather than recycling – has ploughed on building what will soon become some of the most expensive stranded assets in Europe.
At a time when we need the best environmental solutions at affordable prices, the ESA’s proposal would reduce choice for cash-strapped local councils and artificially inflate UK EfW gate fees. The Government should disregard calls for protectionism and ensure that the ETS allows all forms of EfW to compete on a level playing field.