Europe's consumption of used cooking oil (UCO) more than doubled between 2015 and 2022, as it's a key ingredient for biodiesel for cars and trucks.

However, local UCO supplies are constrained by the limited capacity of local authorities to collect it and the European production of used cooking oil.

As such, the continent heavily relies on imports for its supply, a trend set to increase as airlines and transport companies continue to make the switch.

New analysis of the European biofuels market by Transport and Environment (T&E) reveals that Europe currently imports 80% of the UCO used as fuel for vehicles and aircraft, with a substantial 60% of these imports originating from China.


The surge in demand for UCO has raised the risk of fraud, where virgin oils, such as palm oil, may be falsely labelled as 'used' in order to supply green fuels.

Several countries, including Ireland and Germany, are launching official investigations into fraud risks.

The European Commission has also pledged to investigate fraudulent Indonesian biodiesel, possibly rerouted through China and the United Kingdom to evade taxes.


China dominates as Europe's largest UCO supplier, accounting for 60% of imports and 40% of Europe's total UCO supply.

Spain and Italy are particularly dependent on Chinese UCO, while a staggering 96% of Bulgaria's UCO imports come from China.

Phase out

The data also reveals that in 2022, palm oil biodiesel experienced a nearly 30% decline following phase outs in several countries compared with the previous year.

However, Europe witnessed a notable increase in palm oil derivatives such as palm oil mill effluents (POME) and palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD), offsetting nearly half of the decrease in palm oil between 2020 and 2022, the report states.

In some countries, these PFADs are incorrectly labelled as 'waste' or 'residues', despite being by-products of the palm oil refining process.

They are associated with significant environmental impacts and indirect land use changes, similar to conventional palm oil, T&E stated.