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UK proposals to increase biofuel blending could lead to a surge in imports of ‘dubious’ used cooking oil (UCO), according to green campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).

T&E said on 20 April that under the UK Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, UCO counted double towards national climate targets.

“This means UCO is often traded at a higher price than virgin oil, which increases the risk that virgin oils are fraudulently mixed with imported used oil.

“The EU Court of Auditors has said that voluntary schemes cannot guarantee that all the UCO imported into Europe, including the UK, is actually ‘used’. In the past few years, there have been a number of allegations of fraudulent practices linked to the UCO biodiesel industry. The UK has yet to show how it can ensure full transparency of used cooking oil.”

T&E UK director Greg Archer said the UK’s increasing thirst for UCO to power transport was 15 times more than could be supplied from British deep fat fryers, leaving the country reliant on used oil shipped from the other side of the world.

Almost half of the UCO supplied to the UK last year came from China (244M tonnes), while 49M tonnes came from Malaysia, according to T&E.

“For the waste oil that it does import, the UK should strengthen its verification and monitoring requirements along the supply chain and do regular checks to make sure it is really a waste product,” Archer said. “Otherwise, we will end up doing more harm than good.”

UK fossil fuel suppliers are currently required to supply nearly 10% renewable transport fuels, according to T&E, and the Department for Transport is currently consulting on increasing these biofuels targets to nearly 15% by 2032.

T&E said the UK could increase the amount of UCO sourced locally, but this was limited by both the capacity of local authorities to collect it and how much used cooking oil Europeans could produce.