New online trading scheme should cut use of the worst halons

The first ever online halon trading scheme, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), should ease the international exchange of ‘banked’ halons, and reduce the use of newly-produced halons that damage the ozone layer, according to its developers.

The online service will provide a free virtual market place for purchasers and sellers of older man-made brominated hydrocarbons used in fire extinguishers, and is designed to cut back on the use of newer, more damaging halons in the developing world.

The use of halons, which are three to ten times more damaging to the ozone layer than chlorofluorocarbons, was brought under worldwide control by the 1987 Montreal Protocol. Production and consumption of the compounds was phased out in developed countries by 1994, with a freeze in consumption and production of halons in developing nations to begin in 2002, followed by full phase out by 2010. However, there remain critical applications, such as in aircraft, for which no effective alternatives have yet been found, necessitating the use of recycled or reclaimed halons, a spokesman for the UNEP’s OzonAction programme told edie.

“It is the first business-to-business web portal to support compliance with a multilateral environmental agreement,” said Gary Taylor, Co-Chair of the UNEP’s Halons Technical Options Committee.

Since 1992 the UNEP’s halon banking clearing house, operated by OzonAction, has assisted the international exchange of nearly 3,000 ozone-depleting tonnes (ODP) of halon, avoiding the equivalent demand in the virgin compounds. However, around the world, approximately 33,000 ozone-depleting potential (ODP) tonnes of halon are consumed each year.

The online trader is a new service being offered by the OzonAction clearinghouse, and seeks to promote the responsible management of the compounds on both sides of the transaction. In order to prevent the sale of virgin halons on the website, the terms of service agreed by those submitting a listing on the website include an agreement by the providers of halons that their product is from recycled, reclaimed, recovered, or banked sources. Parties seeking to buy the chemicals also have to agree that their organisations have endeavoured to reduce, avoid or eliminate the use of halons to the maximum state possible, and that they are for essential use.

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