Another plant eases fridge mountain but DEFRA criticised for handling of issue

A boost for fridge recycling has come in the form of an agreement between a UK waste management company and a European recycling company, who say their combined work can recycle over 150,000 redundant fridge and freezer units per year.

Since January 2002, under European regulation 2037/2000, no fridge can be disposed of without the prior removal of ozone depleting substances (ODS), such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Due to a lack of processing plants, the UK has developed a backlog of fridges waiting to have their ODS removed.

This facility, provided by Waste Recycling Group and European Metal Recycling (EMR), will increase the capacity of fridges that the UK will be able to process in preparation for recycling or disposing of by approximately one quarter. At present there are four mobile plants that can provide this service, each with the ability to remove ODS from 3000 fridges per week (see related story).

“Waste Recycling can now provide a complete service for our local authority customers,” said Chris Cox, the company’s Commercial Director. “We can now cover collection, receipt, preparation and storage of redundant fridges at our network of facilities and the final dismantling, recycling and recovery through our agreement with ERM,” he added.

According to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), 40,000 fridges and freezer units in the UK need treatment prior to disposal per week. A spokesperson for DEFRA told edie that facilities in the UK are steadily working their way through the backlog since the delay in implementing European regulations in January. Refrigerators have been stored as an interim measure, rather than having ODS removed (see related story).

By October of this year the UK will have the facilities to reprocess more fridges than there are being made redundant, with five further reprocessing facilities to come, said the DEFRA spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the Government has been heavily criticised over its handling of the fridge crisis by Malcolm Bruce, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, ahead of the DEFRA Select Committee report on the disposal of fridges. He says the Government showed “lack of foresight” over the “fridge mountain fiasco” claiming that the contribution of £6 million (see related story) to alleviate the situation was too little too late.

The Select Committee has criticised DEFRA for their lack of preparedness on the fridge legislation and their lack of knowledge on its wider implications for the country before agreeing to consent. DEFRA has said that they will in future work with other ministers and departments to analyse European legislation at the earliest stage to identify potential difficulties and financial problems, but say that the initial cost of this legislation will soon decrease as competition between the facilities grows.

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