Climate-changing gases, what is the problem?

It is certainly noxious to release on the market new quantities of refrigerant gases, whose partial or total emission into the atmosphere will join other emissions already occurred, but in our opinion the real problem, today, is another: considering that the placing on the market will be reduced and then prohibited according to the phase down and phase out schemes provided for by the Regulation, the real focus deserving our attention must become the gas already in use currently. And on this – as far as we can see and understand – little has been done.
The climate-changing potential of fluorinated refrigerant gas emissions has been presented us as an emergency to be faced by forbidding the further introduction of fluids with high global warming potential, with the practical consequence of reducing the use of gases with high (and progressively decreasing) GWP in new plants or in retrofit operations. However, a roadmap to avoid warming increments connected with gases already present in plants is missing. The core of the problem is triple: the disposal costs, the disposal organization and the awareness of the risk connected with the missing correct disposal. Dealing with these aspects is crucial to avoid noxious climatic consequences.

Who is informed on the matter, who knows? Few, and even these few …
The problem of the emissions of fluorinated refrigerant gases is complex and involves several aspects, starting from the perception of the problem itself. Currently, the environmental awareness is a limited prerogative of sector technicians, with scarce understanding among those who work at maintenance. However, the blame should not fall only on installers or maintenance technicians, but we should instead provide for structured and financed information campaigns. The responsibility of suitably informing final customers should be shared and supported by targeted educational initiatives.

Let us speak of (visible and hidden) costs
Today making a fluorinated refrigerant gas inert involves not easily quantifiable costs, because the question is not only having at disposal plants that carry out this inertization, but to manage a real quantity of operations that imply investments and responsibilities.
In absence of a real opportunity for valorisation deriving from regeneration, in fact, the recovery and disposal work is a pure management cost of a waste that currently entails considerable obligations and burdens.
Without considering the logistic matter: recovering and delivering fluorinated gas involves the availability of adequate spaces, cylinders, recovery equipment, and therefore it implies what in management jargon are called fixed costs, to be added to the variable costs determined by the quantities disposed: a problem never faced in resolutive manner by those who have the structures (primary and secondary distributors of refrigerant gases).

Another missing link, the infrastructure
That is not all: recovering the gas is an operation that has a cost also in terms of work times. Recovery, correct bottling, storage and delivery are hours of work that to date are almost implicitly charged to the refrigeration operator.
WEEE consortia in fact are perhaps equipped in terms of territory control but – at least according to what is understandable from contacts occurred – not so strong on the front of the control of the necessary disposal technologies, also because, unlike WEEE, the fluorinated gas is about to be banned and therefore hardly introducible into circular economy logics in the long term (after 2030).

The necessary steps to start
1 Making users aware of the topic: as it was for instance done for Eternit, to carry out information activities through dedicated campaigns by the subjects who, in different capacities, use the refrigerated cycle and to induce them to know what we are talking about when we focus the attention on fluorinated gases.
2 Activating rewarding and non-penalizing mechanisms that lead the responsible subjects to recover the gas in circuits, making them in some way ally of the owners (after they will have been informed) in the action of emission reduction.
3 Suitably training the subjects at stake to carry out the recovery activity, implementing a logistic and organizational network allowing them to carry out this necessary action of environmental protection, with less economic burden for those who will have to pay the bill.
4 Paying to fluorinated refrigerant gases the attention that they deserve for the contribution that they provide to comfort and to life quality.