A Hastings-based company is spearheading a project to tackle one of the most potent but least known causes of climate change in New Zealand.
The gases PFC and HFC used in refrigerants are 9000 times more potent than carbon dioxide contributing more to climate change than any other gas.
Refrigerants are typically found in fridges, heat pumps, and other heating and cooling products including commercial refrigeration.
Product stewardship specialist 3R Group is leading the project to reduce the impact of the gases perfluorocarbons (PFC) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) on the environment by making sure they are stored and disposed of safely.
Product stewardship is an environmental management strategy meaning whoever designs, produces, sells, or uses a product takes responsibility for minimising the product's environmental impact throughout all stages of the products' life cycle.
3R Group business development manager Darren Patterson said PFC and HFC are rated among the most effective at trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere, which is not a good thing.
"They are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide with respect to their global warming potential", said Patterson.
"This, combined with their widespread use, makes them a high priority target for tackling climate change worldwide.
"Of all the things you can do to mitigate climate change, managing refrigerants comes out on top."
As part of the project a working group has been established to represent the interests of the key industries affected by a priority product declaration, including refrigeration and air conditioning, motor vehicle industry, and other significant industry stakeholders.
"There are approximately 10 people in the working group representing specific sectors.
"The product stewardship will see producers, importers and retailers take responsibility for their products and ensure they are re-used, recycled or properly disposed off.
"Priority product waste needs to be managed from cradle to grave."
RECOVERY, a voluntary product stewardship scheme for refrigerants has been operating in New Zealand since 1993.
However, the whole industry hasn't been involved.
"It's vital we have all the players involved to make the scheme as effective as possible," Patterson said.
"A co-regulatory scheme levels the playing field as all companies would be required to participate," he said.
Under the current Waste Minimisation Act 2008, if the Minister for the Environment declares refrigerants a priority product, those products must be part of a co-regulated stewardship scheme.
"The Ministry has already signalled its intentions to act on high priority waste streams, such as refrigerants, tyres and e-waste.
"This project is to try and get key stakeholders to see how the current scheme can be improved.
"The working group will come up with an ideal scenario and with cost/benefit analysis and we go from there."
The project has the support of RECOVERY as well as the Motor Trade Association (MTA), Heat Pump Suppliers Association (HPSA), the Institute of Refrigeration, Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers (IRHACE), the Climate Control Companies Association of NZ (CCCANZ) and Refrigerant License New Zealand (RLNZ).
What are refrigerants?
Refrigerants are chemicals used in a cooling mechanism, such as an air conditioner or refrigerator, as the heat carrier which changes from gas to liquid and the back to gas in the refrigeration cycle.
Most common commercial refrigerants are the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which, because of their high ozone damaging potential, are banned in New Zealand.