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Recycling firm fined $145,760 for mishandling waste

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USA: A Californian recycling company is to pay a penalty of $145,760 for mishandling and incinerating hazardous waste, including treating ammonia without a permit.

Inspectors from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) found that the company, Freon Free, was burning hazardous waste without a permit, increasing the risk of an on-site fire or explosion. 

DTSC also learned that for years Freon Free was improperly treating two to three ammonia-containing refrigerators per week by bolt-cutting refrigerant lines and releasing their contents into a container with water. DTSC insists that this manner of treating ammonia without a permit violates legal requirements and could result in serious injury.

“California law sets forth clear guidelines and a certification process for handlers of discarded appliances,” said DTSC director Meredith Williams. “The inherent dangers posed to the public and environment by certain components, including materials that require special handling, must be taken seriously and mitigated by recycling companies.”

DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations and Enforcement and Emergency Response Division conducted on-site inspections at Freon Free locations in Fairfield, American Canyon, and Orland. Inspectors found Freon Free was treating and storing hazardous waste without a permit; removing materials that require special handling at locations that were not certified; inadequately training staff on how to manage waste; and using other hazardous waste management practices that conflict with the state’s Hazardous Waste Control Law and Health and Safety Code.

Under California law, those who recycle discarded major appliances that contain materials requiring special handling, also known as MRSH, must meet certification requirements. Handlers who demonstrate the ability to properly remove and manage waste in accordance with all applicable hazardous waste control laws are approved by DTSC’s Certified Appliance Recycler Programme.

To prevent the release of dangerous components in appliances, handlers are required to remove mercury, oils, refrigerants, polychlorinated biphenyls, and any other materials that are regulated as hazardous waste. Freon Free may continue to remove MRSH as part of the agreement.

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