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TV show exposes lack of recycling

SINGAPORE: A Singapore tv documentary claims that the majority of the refrigerants from over 300,000 domestic refrigerators per year are being released to atmosphere.

A Channel NewsAsia documentary, Trash Trails, to be televised on Monday (January 30), claims that of more than 50 private companies in Singapore that run recycling facilities, only one offers refrigerant gas removal services, and that company only extracts refrigerant gases from “industrial” cooling units.

Some discarded refrigerators are also being illegally exported, it claims.

While legislation in Europe and elsewhere demands the recovery of refrigerants and the extraction of any global warming gases from the insulation of domestic refrigerators at the end of life, the programme claims that this is not happening in Singapore.

Investigators claim to have observed the situation at a neighbourhood recycling centre, as well as at a facility run by one of Singapore’s largest public waste collectors. It found that discarded refrigerators were simply dismantled, venting the refrigerant to atmosphere, or crushed.

Programme investigators are also said to have tagged 30 old refrigerators with GPS trackers, and found that a number made their way out of Singapore in what would constitute illegal e-waste dumping.

According to a survey of 1,000 people commissioned by the programme makers, 40% return their old refrigerators to retailers when they purchase a newer model. One retailer said that in recent years, they have had difficulty finding a waste collector that will accept the white goods.

Asked to comment, Singapore’s National Environment Agency is said to have told the programme makers: “While there is no obligation under the international treaty to prevent venting of refrigerant gases, Singapore encourages the recycling and re-use of the refrigerants used in industrial and commercial systems.”

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