The rendering by-product has been reclassed as waste rather than a CO2 neutral fuel by the European Commission's Waste Incineration Directive, which came into force at the end of last year. However, although many in the industry have objected to the change, the issue has now come to a head as tenders put out by the Rural Payments Agency demand that companies comply with the new directive.
As a result, UKRA is advising renderers to revert back to fuel oil burning. It has spent heavily on legal advice in the last few years but said it now had no choice but to comply.
Most other European Union countries have interpreted the rules differently and are not insisting on any changes but meat ?rms say they will have to spend thousands to convert each incinerator because of the way the change is being interpreted in the UK. As a result, the majority of rendering plants are expected to revert to using more costly heavy fuel oil to power their plants, which is not deemed a waste.
Alistair Donaldson, executive manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, said his members would suffer heavily and calculated that it would cost the industry about £50 a tonne of raw material if tallow could no longer be used as a biofuel. "It's making us totally uncompetitive in Europe just as we're about to reopen exports and it makes a total farce of the commitment to reduce carbon emissions."
But he is also angry that the industry has tried and failed to arrange a meeting with Margaret Beckett, which Donaldson slammed for its "indifference and apathy". He added: "We're very frustrated that we can't get a sensible decision from them."
Peter Scott, of the British Meat Processors Association, is also angry at Defra's "morally and environmentally bankrupt" position. "It will affect everyone in the industry and will cost about £40 million a year," said Scott. "We will go over Defra's head to No 10 if we don't get a response." A Defra spokesman said that industry had to comply with the regulations by April 24 or stop burning tallow, and that there were no plans to meet representatives. About 100,000 tonnes of tallow out of the 250,000 produced annually in the UK has been burned as a carbon neutral fuel in meat processing plants.