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New rules to tackle “refillable” cylinder loophole

EUROPE: The new F-gas regulations will force refrigerant importers/suppliers to keep and provide documented evidence that binding arrangements are in place for the return of “refillable” cylinders for refilling.

The new, recently agreed regulation proposals put responsibilities on those placing refillable F-gas cylinders on the market to produce a declaration of conformity that includes evidence confirming there are binding arrangements in place for the return of that container for refilling. In particular, the regulation says the declaration should identify the “relevant actors”, their obligatory commitments and the relevant logistical arrangements. Those arrangements will be binding on the distributors of the containers to the end-user.

Suppliers will also be required to to keep evidence of the compliance with these arrangements for a period of at least five years after supply to the end-user and make it available, on request, to the competent authorities of member states and the Commission.

The provisional deal to revise the European F-gas regulation was agreed by the European Parliament and Council on October 5. It is expected to enter into force in Spring 2024.


Non-refillable (disposable) refrigerant cylinders have been banned under European law since 2007, due to the “heel” of refrigerant that is inevitably left behind in an “empty” cylinder. It was estimated that this vapour and liquid heel could represent as much as 10% of the original refrigerant charge – all of which could eventually be released to atmosphere.

Despite this ban, the disposable cylinder became the vessel of choice for illegal importers cashing in on the huge increases in the cost of refrigerants as a result of the European F-gas phase down. 

A belated clampdown by authorities eventually reduced the flow of gas in disposables, but many illegal operators merely switched to using cylinders, which were, technically, refillable. However, in many cases, no provision was made for their refilling, as required by the existing F-gas regulation, so they effectively became disposables. In addition, there were, and still are, many supposedly legitimate suppliers failing to comply with the regulations.

The new regulation attempts to plug those loopholes. It may create extra paperwork for some companies and force others to establish legitimate systems, but will, of course, only be effective if the regulation is properly policed.

Related stories:

Rise of the disposable “refillable” – 23 January 2019
EUROPE: A clampdown on the supply of refrigerant in illegal disposable cylinders has created a new illicit market in refrigerant being sold in refillable cylinders. Read more…

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