RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) Explained

In recent years, collecting materials for recycling has become common practice in households, small businesses and large organisations worldwide. By now it is fair to say we are all aware of the issues and facts surrounding landfill (maybe with thanks to our previous post) but how much do you know about the alternative methods now being used?

Not much? Well we see it as our job to change that. After all, these alternative methods play a vital role in our economy and environment – set to change the way in which we fuel our world.

RDF Defined

RDF stands for Refuse Derived Fuel. This fuel is produced from combustible components that the industry calls Municipal Solid Waste – MSW for short. This waste, usually taken from industrial or commercial sites, is shred, dried, baled and then finally burned to produce electricity. Refuse Derived Fuel is a renewable energy source that ensures waste simply isn’t thrown into a landfill and instead, put to good use. 

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development explains: “Selected waste and by-products with recoverable calorific value can be used as fuels in a cement kiln, replacing a portion of conventional fossil fuels, like coal, if they meet strict specifications. Sometimes they can only be used after pre-processing to provide ‘tailor-made’ fuels for the cement process.”

RDF has many facets, meaning it can be further specified into TDF (Tyre Derived Fuels), SRF (Solid Recovered Fuels) and AF (Alternative Fuels).

What Types of Materials Are Processed?

As mentioned above, various ‘combustible components’ can be processed for RDF. Such components include non-recyclable plastics, paper cardboard, labels and generally ‘corrugative’ materials. The variety of materials able to be processed and turned into Refuse Derived Fuel means that this practice poses huge environmental benefits, as less and less fossil fuels will be required in coal fired power plants, lime plants or cement plants.

What Production Steps Are Involved in RDF?

Because RDF can process such a variety of materials, there are different techniques to ensure the creation of a homogenous material that can be used as a substitute fossil fuel and act as a reduction agent in steel furnaces. The most common way of extracting RDF from Municipal Solid Waste is to combine mechanical and biological treatments methods. Such methods include, but are not limited to:

  • Size screening
  • Coarse shredding
  • Bag splitting
  • Shredding
  • Magnetic separation
  • Refining separation

Is This A Landfill Alternative?

Not only is this a viable landfill alternative, this is an eco-friendly option. And more so than you may first think.

The amount of RDF being exported has grown exponentially in recent years, in an attempt to meet landfill diversion targets. According an extensive report carried out by Dutch energy firm AEB, “exporting waste is more environmentally beneficial than landfilling it in the UK if it travels within 2,300 kilometres by boat or 1,265 kilometres by road.”

With that in mind, it is clear that the UK has a responsibility to not only utilise current RDF plants but also encourage the construction and development of RDF facilities on home soil – saving the environment and improving our economy!

It’s a win-win. If you’re in, head over to our Twitter or Facebook to be kept up to date of our waste management, sustainable supply chain and renewable energy news and ideas. UK infrastructure is forever improving and as a company we are focused on increasing opportunities for our customers to use RDF locally.

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