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Stratford-on-Avon District Council has approved, in principle, the use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) for its refuse collection fleet.

The change is subject to the approval of the 2024/25 Revenue Budget, with the expected additional cost of changing to HVO being up to £250,000 a year.

In 2019, the District Council declared a climate emergency and announced three climate ambitions to achieve by the year 2030. One of the ambitions was to become a Net Zero Carbon Council by 2025 and to do this its carbon emissions need to be reduced.

The most significant contributor to the District Council’s overall carbon footprint is the fuel used in the refuse collection vehicles, which accounts for 1,147 tonnes of CO2 – 35% of the Council’s overall carbon footprint. 

Cllr Susan Juned, leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council, said: “There’s no easy solution, but HVO can be a straightforward replacement for conventional fossil fuel diesel with no impact on operational requirements. It doesn’t need specialist storage equipment and the vehicles won’t need any changes; critically the HVO we’d be using will be produced from appropriately certified sustainable sources.

“This will be a temporary solution. Ideally in the future we will be able to get vehicles that run on biomethane or electricity. At the moment, this is out of the question due to the cost and our collection routes being longer than current battery technologies can support.”

The use of HVO as an alternative fuel has two main environmental benefits. Firstly, its use results in significantly lower carbon emissions when compared with diesel, with some reports stating that this can see a saving of up to 90%. Secondly, it has lower particulate matter and nitrous oxide emissions than diesel. This means that HVO represents a less polluting fuel option and can reduce contributions to poor air quality levels in an area.

It is also proposed that any HVO used will be sourced from a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) accredited supplier and second-generation fuels will be used. This will allow the environmental benefits of HVO use to be realised, while ensuring that it is as sustainable as possible. It is proposed that a longer-term fixed rate deal is used when purchasing the HVO. This will ensure that any fluctuations in market value do not impact upon the total budget set aside for a transition to HVO and will be reviewed annually.