The European Commission does not have a “complete overview” of the origin of used cooking oils used for the production of biodiesel consumed in the EU, but appears set to tighten the rules, according to sources close to the matter.
EURACTIV has learnt that this information is currently not reported by the member states.
Used cooking oils (UCO) are considered as a second-generation waste-based biofuel under the EU’s renewable energy directive because they can help decarbonise Europe’s transport sector.
But the current directive does not distinguish between domestically collected oils and those which are imported from third countries. And critics suggest some of it contains palm oil, which the EU decided to phase out in order to slow deforestation in tropical countries.
Last year, the UK and the Netherlands launched official investigations into companies which have allegedly been selling unsustainable UCO containing palm oil.
“All biofuels have to meet the same sustainability criteria independently of the origin of the feedstock. Currently, the Commission receives only data from the voluntary schemes that have been recognised by the Commission,” said sources said, who asked not to be named.
However, the same sources added that the schemes do not cover the entire market and that it is not certain that all biofuels certified by the schemes are consumed in the EU. UCO-based biofuels are also promoted in third countries.
“This situation will change, however, as the Commission has been empowered by the Renewable Energy Directive to put in place a Union database that will allow it to centrally trace all biofuels consumed in the EU,” the sources said.
EURACTIV was also informed that the Commission will further tighten the auditing approaches applied for biofuels produced from UCO by setting out detailed certification rules in an implementing act.
“It should also be noted that the revised Renewable Energy Directive needs to supervise the work of the certification bodies which are conducting the audits under the voluntary schemes. These measures will further improve the robustness of the system,” the sources said.
For József Papp, a small collector of imported used cooking oils based in Hungary, there should be a distinction between domestically collected and imported UCO.
“Our view is that the EU should support the production of biodiesel from waste (used cooking oil) and ban the production of biodiesel from fresh oil (palm oil),” he told EURACTIV.
He said fresh oils are normally unable to compete with used cooking oils because they are more expensive. But if the price of fresh oil is low, it can be used to make biodiesel just the same, because refineries don’t make the distinction.
Moreover, according to Papp, there is a moral issue when it comes to merchants who create pollution by importing fresh cooking oil into the EU on ships and then do not use it for its intended purpose.
“With traders importing oil into the market, prices fall, so local companies who trade in used cooking…