Poorly labeled pentane appliances cause major
One of the arguments put forward
by RAL has acquired major significance in the current debate on
the environmentally sound recycling of pentane-containing waste
fridges and freezers.
have so far only conceded that there was a short transitional
period in the 1990’s during which pentane-containing units
were not clearly marked. However, a recent investigation by the
RAL Quality Assurance Association has shown that a significant
number of the refrigerator and freezer appliances currently being
sold today are still inadequately labeled.
Poor labeling creates a significant
fire and explosion risk. If this risk is to be minimized, all
European fridge recycling plants must be modified or refitted
to handle units containing pentane. The recent fires that have
broken out at a number of plants demonstrate the seriousness of
For some time now, fridge manufacturers
and manufacturers’ associations have rejected calls to process
refrigeration appliances that contain hydrocarbons in existing
fridge recycling plants. Despite the fact that RAL has shown that
the European WEEE directive demands that all hydrocarbons be completely
recovered from the waste appliance and then recycled or disposed
of appropriately, manufacturers have continued to maintain that
only inadequately labeled appliances need to be processed as if
they contained CFC’s.
The results of an RAL investigation
have considerably weakened this line of argument.
Extensive research at electrical
retail outlets and DIY stores in Luxembourg, France and Germany
has shown that there is still a considerable problem regarding
the incorrect classification of appliances and that this problem
is not just restricted to units manufactured during the period
in the 1990’s when hydrocarbon-containing appliances first
started to appear.
It is certainly the case that
the refrigeration appliances from well-known manufacturers now
being sold are all properly labeled with respect to the contents
of their cooling circuits and insulation materials.
The large ‘PENTANE’
inscription that is either printed or stamped onto the unit can
be recognized without difficulty and would not impede proper sorting,
should sorting be necessary despite the legal concerns arising
from the WEEE directive.
There is, in RAL’s opinion,
no doubt that even today, many of the producers of fridges and
freezers either provide no information or use small inconspicuous
stickers to inform owners that an appliance contains pentane.
These adhesive labels all too often peel off while the appliance
is still in the showroom. It, therefore, seems unlikely that these
labels will remain in place or remain legible after fifteen years
On the basis of this evidence
it is clear that the problem of correctly identifying waste appliances
will remain with us for a very long time and affects units currently
being produced today. It is therefore essential that any units
whose classification is in doubt must continue to be recycled
as if they contained CFC’s.
It also follows that recycling
companies must ensure that their plants are explosion proof so
that hydrocarbon-containing appliances can be treated even when
preliminary separation into CFC and HC appliances has been attempted.
For the reasons stated above
and to ensure compliance with the recovery, recycling and reuse
rates and process monitoring requirements in the WEEE directive,
it is essential that all waste fridges and freezers are treated
in plants that can recover not only CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs but
also hydrocarbons from the plant’s exhaust gas stream before
subjecting these materials to safe destruction or further treatment.
All existing plants must in the
very near future be capable of safely treating hydrocarbon-containing