Is Perishable RDF Just Pie In The Sky?

Neil Grundon, deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, asks if perishable RDF is just “pie in the sky”, following an RDF Conference in London late last year. 


A photo has been going round on social media of a tin of Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney pie. I think it’s supposed to signify all that was wrong with Britain in the 1970s or perhaps to laugh at peoples’ culinary tastes, either way I’m sure that Fray Bentos sales are booming.

I like Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney pie, it’s probably one of the best designed bits of packaging that I have come across ever, and it has kidneys in it, delicious morsels that anyone under 40 has probably not heard of (like a small red avocado, if you are wondering).

The one thing that was not lacking in the 1970s was interesting food, the television might have been in black and white, but the food was in joyous technicolour. From bright yellow and orange to red and blue, you could be sure that whatever food colouring was used, your tongue would be next.

Our parents called the resulting mayhem being ‘naughty’ – today however, food colourings are under the spotlight and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a recognised diagnosis.

Is perishable RDF “pie in the sky”?

Another sign of changing times was the arrival of orange juice. Although originally invented in 1948, it never really hit the shelves in the UK until the early ‘80s as before that we all drank orange squash – or lemon barley water depending on how posh you were. The more sugary the mix either gave away the state of the family finances or whether you were the child of dentists.

That was unless you had some American neighbours who, alongside their Vietnam service pistols, always had frozen OJ. It was a mysterious substance kept in the freezer in a tube then diluted from concentrate and, horror of horrors, it had bits in. Just like Orangina in France and Spain, but we will leave that for now.

It actually tasted nice, but it was like caviar in its rarity, and I guess you had to freeze it just in case it went off, very different to squash which would definitely survive the promised nuclear winter.

This is all news to me because with correctly prepared RDF, what exactly is there to go ‘off’? I’d be curious to know.

What is the point of all of this you may ask?

Well just like orange juice, it seems that in a post-Brexit world, Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) may soon be classed as ‘perishable goods’, much in the same way as the coal or gas it is replacing. (I’m kidding.)

This was suggested at last November’s RDF Conference in London, when Harriet Parke from resource consultancy Eunomia talked about the likely impact on tariffs, notification procedures, and custom arrangements for RDF exports in the event of a ‘no deal’.

As well as advising operators to take measures such as considering storage requirements in the lead-up to 29 March, she urged them to engage with customs teams and find out if there are fast lanes or lanes for perishable products, saying ‘which RDF effectively can be classified as’.

This is all news to me because with correctly prepared RDF, what exactly is there to go ‘off’? I’d be curious to know.

I suspect there is more to it than that, not least the value to these shores of exporting the RDF in the first place – as opposed to keeping it here and increasing our own capacity to make good use of it.

There has been a call for the Government to press for the continuing free movement of RDF regardless of what happens next with Europe, and I await with interest.

My own view is that unless we harmonise taxes across Europe, all pay into a common army, police force, and Parliament we had better stop worrying that there is anything we could do to influence decisions.

Is it too much to say this would all be ‘pie in the sky’?

And in the meantime, whilst you cogitate this poorest of jokes – does anyone have a tin opener?


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