Used cooking oil imports in the UK may have adverse effects on climate change in Asia

Used cooking oil imports


Recent reports suggest an increase in the number of cooking oil imports into the UK from Asia.

According to experts, the waste oil is used for biodiesel. Moreover, it produces less CO2 than other fossil fuels used in cars. Termed as ‘green fuel’, the waste oil is however increasing deforestation and also the demand for palm oil produce across regions in Asia, reports suggest.

In the wake of government efforts which are trying to curb carbon emissions from transport, many of the policies have acted in replacing fossil based fuels like petrol and diesel with crop fuels produced from soya or rapeseed. Allegedly, fuels from these crops absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. This alternative is therefore considered as an improvement rather than burning regular petrol of diesel fuels.

A latest report thus insinuates that used cooking oil (UCO) is one of the key ingredients of biodiesel in the UK as well as in the rest of Europe. As per the report, UK witnessed a 360% increase in the use of cooking oil as a base for biodiesel between 2011 and 2016.

Moreover, since UCO is regarded as a waste product in the EU, for its demand and usage preference in the UK, fuel producers in the country earn twofold carbon credits when they use it in fuels. As a consequence this trend has escalated the demand for cooking oil. Owing to the report, this has also fostered the imports of UCO from Asia.

Furthermore, the report indicates that in the UK between April and December 2018, feedstock source for biodiesel was through Chinese UCO. The amount totaled to around 93 million liters. Within the same time period, UCO from the UK sources produced 76 million liters of fuel.

However, as indicated by a study led by international bioeconomy consultants NNFCC, this ecofriendly trend may have an adverse effect on climate change, by increasing incidence of deforestation and the demand for palm oil. The study further draws attention to the fact that UCO in Asia is not regarded as a waste product and is hence considered safe for animal consumption.

“As soon as that point is reached where you can sell used cooking oil for more than you can buy palm oil, it’s a no brainer,” reports Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, co-author of the report for NNFCC. “What you are going to do if you’re in Asia, you’re going to sell as much UCO as you can to the EU and buy palm oil and pocket the difference.”


Deforestation on a large scale due to increasing demand of palm oil has been witnessed across regions in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Moreover, Indonesia has lost 3 million hectares of forest between 2010 to 2015, owing to palm oil cultivation.


The UK government’s Department for Transport, however does not address this problem. According to a source, the government believes that there is no solid evidence that shows a causative link between policies on waste-derived biofuels and growing use of virgin oils.