The imports of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) intended for the decarbonisation of EU transport are expected to significantly rise, a new report has found. However, the report also called on the EU to put limits on its use, considering its controversial origin and its hidden links to palm oil.
Used Cooking Oils (UCO) are considered waste-based and are double-counted under the EU’s renewable energy directive to decarbonise Europe’s transport sector. But the current directive does not distinguish between domestically collected oils and those imported from third countries.
Critics also suggest some of those oils contain palm oil, which the EU has decided to phase out in order to slow deforestation in tropical countries.
According to a report published by environmental NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), China supplies more than a third (34%) of Europe’s UCO imports while almost a fifth (19%) comes from major palm oil producers Malaysia and Indonesia, combined.
“Europe’s increased thirst for used cooking oil to power its transport sector is outstripping the amount leftover from the continent’s kitchens. This leaves us reliant on a waste product being shipped from the other side of the world,” said Cristina Mestre, biofuels manager at T&E.
Mestre added that countries that would use UCO for animal feed and other products may end up exporting theirs while using cheap oil, like palm, at home.
“The EU needs to limit the use of UCO to avoid doing more harm than good,” she emphasised.
It is not the first time that imported UCO’s origins raise eyebrows in Brussels.
Already in June 2019, a biofuel industry source told EURACTIV that one-third of the UCO used in Europe’s biofuels market is more than likely fraudulent.