There's no doubt about it - refrigerant gases help us stay chilled.
But not all refrigerants are created equal. Some occur in nature, while others are synthetically manufactured. Synthetic refrigerants (sometimes known as F-gases) are damaging to the atmosphere if they leak or are released. Some synthetic refrigerants are so destructive that they’re on the way to a complete ban.
Synthetic refrigerant gases account for the majority of F-gases used in Aotearoa. When synthetic refrigerants are responsible for 2% of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, it’s 2% too much.
Most synthetic refrigerants are made up of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs do not have ODP properties, but their predecessors do (CFCs and HCFCs) which Recovery/Cool-Safe collect and destroy. HFCs do have global warming potential (GWP).
The eco-friendliness of a refrigerant can be measured by its Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and Global Warming Potential (GWP). The lower the better for each.
New Zealand is signed up to all the following global legislation impacting on climate change and the environment.
- The UN’s Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the multilateral environmental agreement of 1987 that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). To date, the Protocol is to date the only UN treaty ever that has been ratified every country on Earth - all 198 UN Member States
- the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol which requires the limitation of Hyydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) consumption, so the volumes we are permitted to import will decrease over time.
- the Basel Convention, an international treaty that aims to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between different nations. It requires countries to deal with their waste onshore wherever possible. New Zealand ratified this convention in 1994.
- the Ozone Layer Protection Regulations 1996, which supports the Kigali Amendment through a scheme that limits the import of bulk HFCs.
- the Climate Change Response Act 2002, which makes it an offence to knowingly release a synthetic greenhouse gas while working with equipment containing synthetic refrigerants
- the 2020 Minister for the Environment declaration of synthetic greenhouse gases as a priority product, requiring regulated Product Stewardship.
Synthetic Refrigerants are a greenhouse gas or Fluoro-Gas (aka F-gas).
Synthetic Refrigerants are measured in terms of Ozone Depleting Potential ( ODP) and Global Warming Potential (GWP). The lower the number for ODP and GWP, the better for the planet. And don't forget that some refrigerants are natural.
Chloro Fluoro Carbon (CFC)
Hydro Chloro Fluoro Carbon (HCFC)
Hydrofluoro Carbons (HFC)
Evolution of refrigerants
Mandates like the Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment have influenced the type of refrigerant used across New Zealand. HCFCs have significantly reduced in favour of HFCs. Over time, we expect to see these HFCs replaced by HFOs as Kigali takes effect.
Analysis of refrigerant destroyed to 31 March 2022
As part of the Recovery synthetic refrigerant destruction process, a sample of each cylinder is taken, allowing us to see the types of refrigerants being destroyed.
Certain molecules, such as 143a and R32, are flammable in high enough concentrations. As the proportions of these molecules increase in the mix being collected and destroyed, we'll continue to adapt to maximise recovery and destruction.
As the proportions of these molecules increase in the mix being collected and destroyed, further investment in infrastructure will be required so we can manage the changing risk profile of the operation.
Analysis of refrigerant collected and destroyed by year
As The Trust for the Destruction of Synthetic Refrigerants, we typically destroyed a shade over 30,000kg of ozone-damaging refrigerant each year.
Sometimes the number's been lower because of technology change affecting the value of refrigerant, or in 2021 when Covid-19 created transport issues.
We'll continue to update you on impacts to recovery and destruction, and on the changing numbers as the Cool-Safe journey continues.