Responsibility for products for sale needs to assure environment friendly production and environment friendly disposal of the product at the end of its lifetime. Our environment can be better protected if material loops modelled on nature are created, and the subsequent recycling of new products is already ensured when the latter are introduced. Products allowing no environmental friendly recycling should be replace by new eco-friendly products. For this purpose the legislator must create basic conditions applying to everyone in equal measure, in order thereby to prevent individuals from obtaining commercial advantages through a lower environmental awareness. To protect the environment a low-residue circulatory system should be aimed for. Recycling should take place at the highest product level possible.
Primary recycling- 1st refinement level
That means reuse of the product in its original quality - e.g. reuse of materials like oil and refrigerants by removing impurities from the spent materials.
Only, if primary recycling is not possible or allowed (CFCs), secondary recycling should be used.
Secondary recycling - 2nd refinement level
That means material recycling (secondary raw material) by recovery of the starting material. In case of CFCs, recovery of hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid, which are sold as important materials.
Combustion - 3rd level
The legislator allows combustion of spent materials only, if no better process could be applied (e.g. CFCs, obtaining special residues that have to be dumped).
Recycling of refrigerants
In 1987 the first recycling system for fluorinated refrigerants has been developed by introducing primary and secondary recycling. Since that time spent refrigerants have been disposed of with recovery of hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid. Collection system
Recover of refrigerants necessitates a close cooperation between producers, refrigerant trade, refrigeration plant builders and refrigerant collectors. By improving the design of recycling plants and by introducing a country wide disposal system, the recycling quantities can be considerably increased compared with the situation today. Thus, hermetically sealed refrigeration plants designed to facilitate recycling must be built on an increased scale. The removal techniques must be developed further, so that during maintenance and dismantling work, the refrigerant can be completely removed without loss. The spent refrigerants may only be collected by separate grades. If different refrigerant grades are intermixed in a collecting tank, reconditioning into saleable product is generally no longer possible. The containers supplied for recycling are investigated analytically. The result of the analysis forms the basis for the nature and scale of the cleaning measures. By effective training of the persons handling the materials, it is necessary to increase the environmental awareness in addition to imparting special knowledge.
Primary recycling applied on refrigerants
First of all, the high-boiling impurities such as oil are separated from the spent refrigerants delivered. The refrigerator oil is supplied to a speciality firm as recycling product for reconditioning. After deacidification and drying, the refrigerant is distilled and sold as pure grade product.
This so-called primary recycling of spent refrigerants is possible if the contaminating constituents oil, water, acid and inert gas do not exceed the quantities formed by normal operating, and the refrigerant in question is a pure-grade product. Primary recycling is appreciably hampered or often rendered unfeasible if the refrigerants are in mixed form. Each additional impurity makes reconditioning more difficult and implies a considerable increase in expenditure. The CFC quantities returned for primary recycling up to now came mainly from the disposal of domestic refrigerators. The collecting and recycling logistics system for domestic refrigerators has been developed at an encouragingly fast rate. Further improvements must be evolved in the collection of refrigerators, the removal of CFCs from the refrigeration cycle and insulating foam, and in the recycling of foam and refrigerating machine oil.
A special form of primary recycling is used by the refrigerating machine engineers when carrying out repair and maintenance work on refrigeration plants. The refrigerant is separated from the oil on the spot using special extraction devices, after which it is cleaned, deacidified and refilled into the refrigeration plant. This form of primary recycling will acquire increasing importance for old plants after the sale of CFCs is stopped as far as the usage of the refrigerant is still allowed. Quantities of CFC returned from older plants that are being converted to new, more environment friendly refrigerants, or which have to be scrapped, will rise substantially as a result of the ban on the use of these materials. It is assumed at present that over one million tonnes of CFCs are deposited worldwide in existing refrigeration plants. In the coming years we shall be faced with a disposal problem which deserves maximum attention.
Secondary recycling applied on refrigerants
For refrigerants which cannot be reconditioned into new products or, for example, are no longer allowed to be reconditioned following the ban on CFCs, other environment-friendly recycling processes are called for. Basically, the aim is to achieve a material recycling at a high product level. The problem was solved by developing a special high temperature reactor cracking process in which the CFC molecules are cracked by heat into smaller units, in order to obtain new valuable chemicals for sale (hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid). This method of recycling secondary raw materials is known as secondary recycling.