Europe’s surging demand for used cooking oil could fuel deforestation

The EU promotes used cooking oil under its green fuels law which is pushing up demand for the 'waste' product.  And although Europe can increase the amount of UCO that can be sourced locally, this is limited by both the capacity of local authorities to collect it and how much used cooking oil Europeans and EU industries can produce. This means it is increasingly reliant on dubious imports. According to the study carried out on behalf CE Delft on behalf of T&E, the demand for UCO could double in 2030.

China supplies over a third (34%) of Europe’s UCO imports while almost a fifth (19%) comes from major palm oil producers Malaysia and Indonesia combined. Within a decade the volume Europe needs could double to 6 million tonnes as EU countries strive to meet targets for renewable fuels in transport , the study finds. This in turn could trigger palm oil being used to replace cooking oil in exporting countries while also incentivising fraud (mixing virgin oil).

As UCO is counted double towards national climate targets under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, it is often traded at a higher price than virgin oil. This increases the risk that virgin oils could be fraudulently mixed with imported UCO.

The study and the associated T&E briefing can be accessed below.