The new definition for RDF – UNTHA UK’s thoughts
At the start of this year we published an article outlining why we thought an RDF quality standard was needed. So it seems quite fitting that as 2015 comes to a close, we’re summarising our views on the RDF definition that Defra has introduced.
Defra announced the outcome of the Government’s RDF call for evidence in late 2014, and in January we considered the likely implications for the Waste to Energy industry. We said, as we have done for many years, that a quality standard would undoubtedly drive progress, but that it would need to be defined and introduced for the right reason. We didn’t want to tie responsible waste companies up in more red tape, as this would fail to help anyone. However, we did feel that, if the definition was carefully thought through, it could achieve greater clarity and consistency in what has, to date, been a variable sector. Ultimately we hoped it would also ensure better recyclate recovery.
And so we’ve waited with baited breath to see what came next. It is therefore pleasing to learn, in recent weeks, that Defra has issued an updated proposed definition for Refuse Derived Fuels.
“RDF consists of residual waste that is subject to a contract with an end-user for use as a fuel in an energy from waste facility. The contract must include the end-user’s technical specifications relating as a minimum to the calorific value, the moisture content, the form and the quantity of RDF.”
Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the Resource Association has reportedly praised this as a “workable definition”, something which we have to agree with. It is a little surprising to learn that the definition does not stress the need for regulatory permits – it will be interesting to see how it pans out without that. But it is encouraging nonetheless.
Some industry professionals have expressed relief that there has been no further reference to a treatment standard, again something we’re not sure about. Operational quality benchmarks would surely evidence an organisation’s bid to comply with industry protocol. However, if the resulting product fits the brief, at least that’s something!
Will the definition alone be enough to wholly combat waste crime? Of course not. However, Defra’s revised wording – and the Environment Agency’s efforts to police it over the next six months – is a small step (or should that be a giant leap) towards achieving best practice.
If nothing else, the definition confirms that the Government is paying close attention to the importance of RDF within the UK’s resource agenda. It also shows that Defra, with the help of the EA, is clamping down on less scrupulous firms that abuse the parameters of our industry. Waste to Energy is a seriously important and progressive sector – this definition illustrates that anyone taking part in it, must mean business!