RDF sector seeks end to landfill

Landfill in Europe should be progressively eliminated through tax changes to reduce methane output, the refuse derived fuel (RDF) industry has said.

The RDF Industry Group called for landfill to be taxed more heavily than energy from waste (EfW), culminating in “a clearly scheduled landfill ban on combustible municipal solid waste and commercial and industrial waste”.

With both the UK and EU emissions trading schemes planning to include EfW before the end of the decade, the group said it was vital landfill was not “inadvertently incentivised”.

“Increasing the cost of EfW but not landfill will reduce the cost gap between these two treatment methods,” said the group in a report titled The Role of Waste Derived Fuel in the EU’s Energy and Resources Transition.

“Improvements to landfill diversion policies need to be introduced at the same time as the financial burden of carbon taxes kicks in, to prevent diversion to landfill.”

The UK government is currently consulting on plans for EfW within the UK ETS, but is resisting calls for an RDF export ban prompted by fears of ‘carbon leakage’.

The RDF group represents 38 organisations across Europe, including UK-based companies such as Cory and Enva. It said that methane was responsible for 30% of global warming, adding that better solid waste management offered the greatest potential for methane reduction.

It said effective enforcement of existing landfill measures should take priority over attempts to devise new policies which risked having limited impact due to inadequate enforcement.

All EU member states must have sufficient taxes or restrictions in place to reduce waste sent to landfill, it said, with tax increases linked to carbon tax liabilities so that landfill was always taxed more heavily.

Landfill exemptions for specific waste streams should be removed, unless there was no other means of treatment, it argued. Meanwhile, landfills would become required to capture methane.

On carbon tax policy, the report said the coal, oil and gas imports must be taxed at higher rates than RDF, calling for national and EU-wide carbon trading schemes to be consolidated in Europe.

“Fragmented carbon policy creates a barrier to effective and shared energy from waste utilisation,” the report said.

Jones said that taking a single market view of RDF trade across Europe will be vital. “This means pooling waste-to-energy capacity across the EU and ensuring policy is designed to support a joined-up, Europe-wide approach,” he said.

The report also argued EfW provided an affordable sustainable treatment route for sorting and recycling residues and so including residue treatment in EfW taxation is “counterproductive and leads to an un-level playing field compared with virgin materials”.

Carbon capture and storage will not be suitable for all EfW facilities, it said, but taxes must allow operators to reduce their liabilities by exempting carbon that is permanently stored.

“If carbon capture and storage is to succeed, governments will need to ringfence a portion of carbon tax revenue for this purpose,” the report said.


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