EU RED II trilogue should exclude fuels from waste plastic, say campaigners

14 May 2018 |

Fuels derived from waste plastic need to be excluded from the EU’s recast of the bloc’s renewable energy directive, campaign groups have urged as EU lawmakers try to find agreement on alternative fuel use.

Campaigners say they are “deeply concerned” about the proposed inclusion of recycled carbon fuels from non-renewable solid waste, such as plastic, within the EU’s definition of renewable fuels.

 “We believe that this inclusion is a harmful distortion of the concept of renewable energy, and inconsistent with EU circular economy and climate policies,” said a coalition of NGOs in a letter sent in May calling upon the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament to scrap the proposal during trilogue discussions.

Co-legislators meet on 17 May with at least two more meetings scheduled by the end of Bulgaria's rotating EU presidency on 30 June to try and hammer out agreement.  

Opponents of the clause in the draft RED II say plastic-derived fuels from oil will never be renewable and are therefore at odds with Europe’s decarbonisation targets.

Zero Waste Europe, one of the co-signatories of the letter said that including non-recycable plastics could create a negative precedent for including non-renewable energy sources in the renewable energy policy framework, and as a result, risks undermining public trust in the EU’s climate and energy policy framework.

The European Parliament’s amendment AM216 requires fuel suppliers to provide a certain minimum share of fuels from recycled carbon fuels and other biofuels and so far in trilogue discussions, there has been little opposition from individual member states, ZWE told Energy Census in an email.

The prospect of finding an end-use in RED II for plastics is thought to appeal to some policymakers in the wake of China's ban on many imports of plastics from Europe that were previously recycled in huge recycling facilities in areas such as the Pearl River Delta.

Mountains of plastic have built up in many EU member states, and politicians in European countries are keen to be seen taking action on plastic waste in view of rising awareness among voters about the huge harm that discarded bottles, bags and drinking straws are having on oceans and marine life.   

Neste

Finland-based Neste, one of Europe’s biggest producers of biofuels, is understood to be working on an industrial scale trial for use of non-recyclable plastics in fuel.

In July 2017 Neste said on its website that it would put a large amount of resources into researching how these products could be used.  

Earlier this year a consortium comprising French chemicals producer Air Liquide, Dutch chemicals producer AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, Canada’s Enerkem and the Port of Rotterdam agreed to develop what they said is Europe’s first facility to convert waste plastics and other mixed wastes into new raw materials.

'Insignificant' benefits

However recent research into the costs, benefits and potential greenhouse gas reduction potential of non-recyclable plastic concluded that the technology was deficient.

A November 2017 paper funded by European Climate Foundation and the International Council on Clean Transportation found that unless ‘double counting’ is permitted for the fuel in reducing emissions in the transport and industrial sectors, “all synthetic fuels offer insignificant [climate] benefits”.

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