Since the release of the Environment Agency guidance stating that pentane fridges must be treated as hazardous waste, a number of warnings have been given by councils and recyclers on the rise of fridge fly-tipping and the shortage of available fridge recycling plants. Recent fly-tipping has especially been seen by councils in the West Midlands and Derbyshire area.
The ruling, published in February, relates to the pentane blowing agent used in the insulation foam as an alternative to CFCs. The Environment Agency (EA) has stated that in order to prevent the risk of fire at fridge storage and treatment sites, pentane fridges can only be treated at sites permitted to process hazardous waste. As a result, metal recyclers are no longer able to shred pentane fridges, instead having to send them to dedicated fridge reprocessing facilities to be degassed. As such, many are claiming that there is insufficient capacity currently in operation to deal with the tonnage of fridges being produced.
One fridge plant operator confirmed, “We saw some instances where the number of fridges coming back through local authorities went up 5 or 6 times, and for the first time in a long time we have had some suppliers that we have had to turn away.”
According to the EA, the ruling came about in the wake of reports of poor practise at waste facilities, involving the deliberate damage of cooling circuits and removal of compressors before they have been fully degassed. It also claimed that some operators were advising customers to remove compressors prior to disposal, in order to avoid the need for degassing. An EA spokeswoman has commented to say that “since we issued our guidance there has been a significant increase in the number of fridges being processed through dedicated fridge processing plants, which we see as a positive move. Our recent enquiries indicate that there are fridge processing plants with sufficient capacity so there is no firm evidence that a lack of capacity is causing fridges to be fly-tipped.”