Refrigeration the odd man out in CFC phase-out

Bringing forward a ban on CFCs and methyl chloroform to the end of 1994 would be generally feasible in cleaning applications, according to a study for the Department of Trade and Industry. But a second study found that the refrigeration sector has made little progress in phasing out CFCs, and needs drastically to improve its recycling record if it is to avoid a serious shortfall in CFC supplies.

The studies were commissioned in preparation for two crucial policy decisions on ozone-depleting chemicals. The first is due in November, when the phase-out deadline for CFCs and methyl chloroform under the global Montreal Protocol is set to be brought forward to 1 January 1996 (see pp 36-37 ). Soon afterwards, EC Environment Ministers will decide whether this could be advanced to 1 January 1995.

The report prepared for the DTI by management consultants Touche Ross reviewed the feasibility of both phase-out dates for CFC-113 and methyl chloroform. Both are used widely as cleaning solvents.

The report concludes that, with the exception of a few specialist applications, electronics and precision cleaning businesses have generally made plans to replace both compounds and could do so by 1 January 1995.

In contrast, "no sense of urgency" in replacing methyl chloroform was found among metal cleaning businesses, although alternatives exist and could be introduced by the end of 1994. And in the dry cleaning sector, the only barrier to meeting that deadline is the cost of premature replacement of CFC-113 machines, which will pose cash flow difficulties for smaller firms.

The picture in the refrigeration sector is much less reassuring, according to a study by March Consulting. CFC consumption was cut by only 15% between 1986-91. About 75% of the current demand is for replacing CFCs which have leaked to the atmosphere. The high leakage rate, coupled with a recycling rate which is less than 2% of consumption, are likely to result in a major shortfall of supplies to service existing equipment after CFCs are banned.

The study urges major users to implement leakage prevention programmes and improve reclamation and recycling of CFCs. These are being discouraged by the price of CFCs, which is lower in real terms than it has been for many years. A CFC tax would provide a "useful stimulus" to recycling, but would have to be implemented in spring 1993 to be of value.

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