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Fridges containing Pentane to be considered as hazardous waste says Environment Agency

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The environment agency has announced the classification of newer fridges that contain Pentane or Cyclo-Pentane, no longer to be considered as WEEE, these fridges should now be treated as hazardous waste.

Used as refrigerants in the cooling system or a blowing agent in the insulating foam, Pentane or Cyclo-Pentane was introduced as an alternative to previous CFC’s that can be found in older refrigeration units. CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons) were condemned in 2001 as part of the European Council Regulation No. 2037/2000 because of their high potential to damage the ozone layer.

The use of Pentane for this purpose reduced the risk of emitting ODS’s (Ozone depleting substances) by roughly one fiftieth per tonne emitted. However, this HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) has recently been criticised as a viable alternative, in part due to the fact that HFC’s still contain ODS’s but they are also extremely flammable. Cyclo-Pentane is 11 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, therefore there is real cause for concern.

Because of their make-up, the Environment Agency have authorised that fridges containing Pentane should only be stored and treated at sites that are carry a hazardous waste registration including AATFs (Approved Authorised Treatment Facility) that will store and treat hazardous waste in a compliant and legitimate way.

Before being compliantly scrapped, the HFC’s within the fridges need to be removed by authorised personnel so that they can then be recycled in-line with the WEEE directive. There have been reported instances whereby customers have been told to remove the compressors to avoid the need for degassing. A whole host of non-compliant bad practices led to the final decision to announce Pentane as a hazardous materials by the Environment Agency.

There is an ongoing debate on the relative environmental impacts of Pentane as a blowing agent yet there is amble capacity in the UK to make sure fridges are compliantly recycled and hazardous waste is treated accordingly.

Skip companies have seen a vast rise in the number of fridges that are having to be put to one side before they can be sent to a reprocessing site, taking up large amounts of space and consuming time. Specialist waste collectors such as Collect and Recycle can utilise their vast supply chain to compliantly relocate fridges containing CFCs and HFCs to appropriate processing sites as per producer responsibility under the WEEE directive and Environment Agency. Having the knowledge on Best Available Treatment Recovery & Recycling Techniques (BATRRT), specialist waste collectors can make sure the disposal of fridges is poised in the right direction.

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