UK may have to export scrapped refrigerators containing CFCs

The UK does not have the infrastructure needed to meet the 1 January 2002 deadline for the European Commission’s regulation for the disposal of ozone depleting substances from domestic refrigerators, and may be forced to export scrapped refrigerators for disposal in other European countries, it has been revealed.

European requirement 2037/2000, which necessitates the removal of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), chlorofluorocarbons (CVCs) halons and other ozone depleting substances, including those trapped in insulating foam, from refrigeration equipment before they are scrapped, stems from the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, first agreed in 1987.

“The UK has no facilities at present capable of extracting ozone-depleting substances from insulation foam,” said John Convery of the Scottish Executive’s Recycling and Waste Team in a letter to local authority waste managers, electrical retailers, and other companies and organisations involved in the disposal of domestic refrigerators.

“Pending the establishment of plant capable of removing ozone-depleting substances from insulation foams in the UK, disposers will have no option but either to send scrapped refrigerators to elsewhere in the EU for treatment or to store them in the UK until a suitable facility is available,” said Convery. “The Scottish Environment Protection Agency must be consulted before shipping any waste abroad and it will be pleased to advise waste holders on how to do so.”

Around 40% of the 2.5 million refrigerators that are replaced each year in the UK have been traditionally exported to developing countries in working order, with the remainder being sent to scrap metal facilities or to landfill, said Convery. However, as a result of the European Commission regulation, the export of functional fridges will also no longer be an option, he said.

The matter was brought to light following a survey by environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth earlier this year, which showed that most local authorities are not even able to meet current requirements.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) admits that unless something is done, scrapped refrigerators may have to be exported to countries that do have the facilities to safely remove CFCs. However, the Department is attempting to solve the problem. “There are three companies that think that they will be able to set up [the removal of CFCs from refrigerators] once the standards have been decided,” a DEFRA spokesman told edie. Currently, a technical committee is developing a set of standards, which DEFRA hopes will be completed by the end of this month. Nevertheless, as of the beginning of January 2002, local authorities may be faced with the problem of how to store scrapped refrigerators, says DEFRA, and as a result, the Department is attempting to find some extra money to assist them.

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