You might not have heard about it, but RDF tax is big news in the waste management industry, and it’s likely to affect you both as a business owner and a UK resident.
What is RDF?
RDF or refuse derived fuel is a term used to describe commercial and residential waste that has been processed so it can be burnt as a fuel to produce energy. It is seen as an efficient way to deal with waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill (general waste).
After waste is collected by waste management companies it is sent to material recovery facilities, where it is sorted and goes through ‘pre-treatment’ procedures. These procedures use a range of different physical, thermal, chemical and/or biological processes to change the qualities of the waste to make it easier and safer to handle and transport and make it more efficient as a fuel source.
After treatment, the RDF waste is transported to a treatment facility. Currently, the UK exports RDF waste to a number of European countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, with smaller amounts going to Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Spain, and France, with only a very small amount remaining in the UK.
Once the waste arrives in these countries it is processed and incinerated to produce energy that goes towards heating surrounding buildings and homes. Further information about RDF can be found here, at the RDF Industry Group’s website.
The largest importer of UK RDF waste is the Netherlands who imports 1.4 million tonnes of material per year, with 1.28 million tonnes from England alone, and it is the Netherlands who are implementing the RDF tax.
The RDF tax
The Netherlands has implemented The RDF tax which is a €32-per-tonne (£28.75) tax on the import of all foreign waste for incineration.
The Dutch government has made the decision to do this in an attempt to achieve a 49% reduction in CO2 emissions, as part of the Paris Agreement.
The tax came into effect on the 1st January 2020. This means that English businesses and councils will potentially have to pay an additional, and eyewatering £40.3 million per year to export waste to the Netherlands.
Currently, the UK does not have enough capacity to treat its own waste, and the tax will not be affected by any changes made during Brexit negotiations.
Will the tax reduce Co2 emissions?
Well, it’s hard to say.
The RDF Industry Group believes this tax may actually increase Co2 emissions, rather than reduce them. They believe that because of the tax more waste will be sent back to landfill, which, will, in turn, increase greenhouse gases. It is their belief that every tonne of waste diverted from incineration and sent to landfill will emit and additional 261 kilograms of C02. That’s the equivalent of running 10 lightbulbs for a whole year.
Dutch waste management firm Attero, and AVR (Afvalverwerking), one of the largest energy from waste (EfW) companies in the Netherlands, have also raised concerns about the tax and even launched an appeal at the Court in Den Haag (The Hague) to delay the implementation. Unfortunately, this dismissed by the Dutch Government, and the tax went ahead.
How will this affect businesses in the UK?
The short answer is that it will cost the UK a lot more to deal with its waste (both residential and commercial).
Due to the UK Climate Change Act 2008, the UK Government’s own initiative to reduce Co2 emissions, sending all of this waste back to landfill is not an option. While the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs may be sympathetic, the climate change act was created to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and is unlikely to change.
While some councils and waste collection companies may attempt to absorb some of the additional costs created by the RDF tax, it’s more likely that they will be forced to increase collection prices to their customers (commercially) and residents via council tax.
How can businesses avoid this extra cost?
While it may not be possible to avoid all of the extra waste charges that will be generated from the RDF tax, here at CheaperWaste we would suggest to all of our customers that they undertake a waste audit and evaluate how much of their waste is going into their ‘general waste’ waste bins.
Recycled waste streams like glass, dry mixed recycling, and food waste should remain unaffected by the tax, and we encourage all of our customers to embrace recycling, not only for the positive environmental impacts but for the financial implications.
Contact us today to discuss how CheaperWaste can help you reduce your waste costs.