POLAND: Illegal refrigerant imports, either smuggled or imported outside of the EU quota system, cost the Polish treasury an estimated €7m in uncollected taxes and customs fees in 2018.
The figures contained in a new report by industry body PROZON reflect the magnitude of the problem for a country, seemingly inundated with illegal refrigerant coming across its borders.The illegal material is said to have amounted to 40% of Polish demand last year and was valued at €55m.
Poland is said to use about 3,000 tons of synthetic refrigerant per year, nearly half of which is R134a used in huge amounts in car air conditioning. According to current prices, the value of the entire domestic market is estimated at around PLN600m (€138m).
PROZON maintains that the illegal trade has its origins in China and then carried to the EU from border countries, mainly Ukraine and Turkey. The factor driving the illegal trade is the price.
R134a legally imported under the EU quota system sells for around PLN200/kg (€46/kg) in Poland. According to PROZON, the same refrigerant in Ukraine is 5-6 times cheaper, making smuggled R134a more profitable than alcohol or cigarettes.
In July last year PROZON warned that Poland was facing an influx of illegal refrigerants, smuggled in both large and small cylinders, by trucks, vans and passenger cars, and even in LPG tanks installed in private cars. The smuggled goods included refrigerant in both refillable and illegal disposable cylinders. Many of the cylinders did not have the appropriate markings and certificates allowing them to be legally used in EU countries.
Since then, the illegal material continues to be sold on unregulated internet marketplaces or directly by phone and email.