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Livestock sector to appeal against £50 million tallow fuel ban

Article reprinted from ‘Farmers Weekly’ 20th April 2006

The livestock industry is appealing against a decision to stop renderers using tallow as a fuel because they fear it will hit farm gate beef prices and push up fallen stock collection costs by 15-30%.

Renderers have been told by the Rural Payments Agency that their contracts for the Older Cattle Disposal Scheme will be withdrawn if they continue to use tallow as a fuel in their plants after 24 April.

The RPA says the Waste Incineration Directive, introduced on 28 December, 2005, classifies tallow as a waste rather than a product – despite tallow being used as fuel in many plants for some years.

The UK Rendering Association said renderers had reluctantly decided they had no choice but to cease using tallow as a fuel even though it will lead to added costs of £30-£50 million pounds per year for the meat industry.

In a letter sent to DEFRA it pointed out that these were costs renderers will have to pass back to the meat and livestock businesses they serve even though “there are serious doubts as to their ability to meet them”. It also said that there would be enormous environmental consequences because tallow is a carbon neutral renewable biofuel.

UKRA has estimated that if all tallow used as a fuel in 2005 had been replaced by fossil fuels it would mean 0.75m tonnes of CO2 emissions.

A spokesman said: “The UKRA has invested heavily in legal advice over almost three years, in a bid to find a way through with DEFRA. We will continue to fight, but have no choice but to comply”. “This has put us in a corner”

“Other member states have found a way round this, for example, the Irish determined that in this case WID regulations did not apply.”

Original article written by Farmers Weekly staff.

© Reed Business Information Ltd 2006

Background to the use of tallow fuel

  • Following DEFRA’s decision to ban the use of tallow as a fuel, the UK meat and rendering industries will now be forced to use either heavy fuel oil or edible vegetable oils such as palm oil.
  • The UK is the only EU nation to ban tallow fuel
  • In 2004 approximately 700,000 tonnes of the European production of tallow and animal fat was used as an alternative to fossil fuels.
  • A similar amount was used to produce soap or oleochemicals (organic chemicals)
  • The remainder was used in food products, pet food and animal feeds.
  • In 2005 it is estimated that approximately 200,000 tonnes will have been used as a replacement for fossil fuel in the UK alone
  • 75% of the tallow has been used for the generation of renewable electricity and the rest as an energy source for the rendering and slaughtering industries
  • This equates to a reduction in UK annual CO2 emissions of 750,000 tonnes
  • Significant quantities of vegetable fats are now also used as fossil-fuel replacements across Europe; including rapeseed oil for bio-diesel production and palm oil burnt for steam raising and power generation
  • European consumption of vegetable oils as fossil-fuel replacements is still rising and set to continue in the future.
  • All oils and fats, animal or vegetable, are chemically very similar as they are made up of the same types of chemical compounds
  • Their chemistry of combustion, and thus emissions, is identical
  • The combustion of natural oils and fats, animal or vegetable in place of fossil-fuel oil produces significantly lower particulate and acid gas emissions