Environment minister Amy Adams has named refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases as one of four product waste streams where the Government is considering intervention. The other product areas are electrical and electronic equipment, tyres, agrichemicals and farm plastics.
“While the focus in New Zealand has been on voluntary schemes, in my view, the time has come to seriously consider appropriate mandatory approaches for selected priority waste streams,” Amy Adams has said.
The voluntary accredited Refrigerants Recovery scheme in place in New Zealand has lead to only an estimated 5% of available eligible refrigerants being collected for safe disposal.
Recovery programmes are mandated in Japan, Australia, USA and Europe where much higher recovery rates are being achieved. By comparison, Norway, Japan and Australia boast recovery rates of 40%, 56%, and 61% respectively.
The industry has been pushing for change and approached the Government in late 2012 seeking regulatory support to reduce free-riders and fund effective recovery. This would involve, for example, priority product declaration and a participation requirement for refrigerant importers and installers. Estimated prices per product passed onto consumers would vary by gas content. Preliminary estimates suggest a cost range of $2 per domestic refrigerator to $133 per refrigerated truck (about 0.3 to 0.5% price increase).
The Ozone Protection Company was established by wholesale refrigerant importers in late 1993, which evolved into the Refrigerants Recovery scheme which was accredited under the WMA as a voluntary product stewardship scheme in 2010. It is based on a voluntary product levy on imported bulk refrigerants and now covers the six major importers. Importers of smaller bulk amounts or pre-charged gas canisters, or downstream installers and refillers, have not joined and are not covered, although some do bring refrigerants in to the scheme to be destroyed.
The scheme actively promotes an industry code of good practice to reduce risks of harm from refrigerants, but has found poor uptake and low levels of training in the industry.
During the review of the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2012, a submission from New Zealand’s Institute of Refrigeration Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers requested a mandatory levy on greenhouse gases to cover costs of safe collection and disposal. The SGG levy came into effect on 1 July 2013 and provides a cost-effective method for SGG importers to participate in the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. The SGG levy goes into the consolidated fund, and thus is not directly available to fund collection and destruction of waste refrigerants.
New Zealand emission trading units are available to the Refrigerant Recovery scheme for their destruction of the gases, and they are registered to collect these. However, with low market prices for carbon, this is not sufficient to cover costs. Future allocation of the SGG levy for funding for safe SGG disposal is a potential option for consideration.