UK boasts highest refrigerant recovery rate

Report-8018USA: The UK has the highest reported rate of refrigerant recovery in the world, while Japan is said to destroy the highest tonnage of refrigerants per year.

These findings and more are found in a new report by the US Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) on refrigerant management.

Research Project 8018, Review of Refrigerant Management Programs, was designed to compare refrigerant management and recycling programmes implemented in key regions of the world, evaluate their effectiveness, and determine best practices as they relate to the US refrigerant landscape.

The report reviews refrigerant management programmes in seven primary jurisdictions: Australia, Canada, California, the European Union, Japan, the UK and the United States. The report also includes a high-level review of activities in China and Brazil.

Focus areas include the current processes for original equipment manufacturers, contractors, end users, and reclaimers to handle refrigerants; how and where refrigerant recycling happens; and the amount of refrigerants ultimately destroyed. Research covered the regulations, roles and responsibilities, funding sources, incentive and enforcement mechanisms, performance, refrigerant recovery, tracking and reporting, outreach, training, and flow of refrigerants in the nine jurisdictions.

The report observes that many different regulations and programmes exist to abate refrigerant emissions and promote refrigerant recycling but measuring the enforcement rigour and effectiveness is difficult. Unlike other environmentally damaging emissions, the fact that refrigerants are colourless and odourless make violations, such as venting, easy to conceal and hard to track.

The processes and approaches to manage refrigerant vary widely around the world. Some countries, such as Australia, Japan and the EU, rely on robust regulatory frameworks that control refrigerant from cradle to grave. Others, such as Canada and the US pair voluntary programmes with less comprehensive regulations.

Amongst the findings, Japan is noted as destroying the highest tonnage of refrigerants per year, destroying more refrigerant than most other programmes have since their inception. Japan has also seen a 1.8x increase in annual refrigerant recovered from commercial equipment since 2006.

Australia’s RRA recovers between 35% and 61% of refrigerant, which is almost all destroyed. Unlike reclaimed or recycled refrigerant, says the AHRI report, this locks in substantial emissions abatement.

While many do not report recovery rates, of those jurisdictions that do, the UK is seen to have the highest reported rate of recovery with estimates of 65-92% depending on end-use.

The US EPA’s GreenChill and Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Partnerships are also said to exhibit substantially above average performance but the report says this data is self-reported and may overstate performance.

By contrast, the European Environment Agency limits the public release of refrigerant destruction and reclamation activity due to confidentiality concerns. For that reason its reports of around 4% ODS destroyed per year and 1% F-gas reclaim rates are thought to be large underestimates.

Copies of Research Project 8018, Review of Refrigerant Management Programs can be read and downloaded here.

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