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Refrigerant Recovery: The Reclamation Industry

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Back in the 1990’s, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to phase out and eventually eliminate CFC’s by using the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol. CFC’s were the main refrigerants of choice for over 40 years in uses such as air conditioning, foam blowing, and meter dose inhalers, just to name a few. This phase out initiated the establishment of An EPA backed Certified Reclamation Industry. In an effort to capitalize on this new booming industry there were many new companies established around the country. However, this new reclamation industry never flourished as expected and unfortunately many of the newly formed companies failed and went out of business.

Then in 2004 with the fast approaching phase down of HCFC’s, primarily R22, some of the surviving reclamation companies from the 1990’s felt they would get another chance to prosper.

Both CFC’s and HCFC’s are ozone-depleting chemicals. Chemicals, when vented are known to destroy the ozone layer. Because of the damage and erosion this is causing, the world is seeing a marked increase in illnesses such as skin cancer.

Ironically the CFC’s and HCFC’s were replaced with more ozone friendly refrigerants such as R410A and R407A. The problem with these new zeotropic blends is that they have global warming rates much greater then the refrigerants that they replaced. The science behind the theory of global warming, which involves the release of carbon dioxides into the atmosphere, is accepted by most scientists and is a leading issue with the current U.S. Administration.

The need to incorporate long-term, long lasting practices regarding used and unwanted refrigerants could never be more important than right now. Even though the EPA has pushed laws through Congress that make it illegal to vent refrigerants the numbers say that it is still a common practice used by more technicians than anyone would like to admit. The simple fact is that the recovery and return of used refrigerants has been made too difficult by existing programs around the country. Many have looked at recovered gas as a nuisance and not worth the time and energy to handle this valuable commodity properly. Many contractors find themselves in a position where recovered refrigerant is considered a liability. They are being charged to exchange full cylinders for new vacuum pulled cylinders when in reality they should be getting paid for the contents and having replacement cylinders provided to them for free as part of the service.

There are companies that will pay you for these contents and swap out your cylinders. The EPA has listed these companies on their website as locations to handle your used refrigerant and they can provide the cradle to grave guarantee you need to meet your legal responsibilities.

USA Refrigerants is a company striving to change this situation and helping all contractors recover responsibly and get paid the fair market price for doing so. They are working to form a hub network of larger contractors to work with and to support smaller contractors. Larger contracting firms will get paid for providing a necessary service and smaller contractors will finally see recovered refrigerant as an asset rather than a liability.

It is essential that ACCA members lead the way in recovering refrigerant. We need to work together to eliminate venting and take advantage of recovered gas becoming a profit center rather than a financial and legal liability.

It is time to stop turning a blind eye to the problem. Lets become the solution!

Adam Raven
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Opinion

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