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EU Commissioner clears confusion for fridge recyclers

Confusion around the interpretation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive regarding fridges should now be resolved following a letter of clarification by EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

According to Dimas, there is a “clear obligation to remove liquid hydrocarbons, such as cyclopentane from fridges and freezers”.

In his letter Dimas referred to Article 6(1) of the WEEE directive and said: “The term “removal of all fluids” makes it clear that not only the gases mentioned in Annex II no.2 are to be extracted from refrigeration equipment, but also any kind of liquid contained in the cooling circuits or insulation materials of such equipment.”

The letter from Dimas comes in response to a request for clarification from the RAL Quality Assurance Association for the Demanufacture of Refrigeration Equipment Containing CFCs — a body aimed at guaranteeing quality in the fridge recycling sector and compliance with environmental standards.

Different interpretations of the directive meant that some had been unsure if the hydrocarbons contained in waste fridges and freezers had to be completely recovered before treatment or disposal, or whether these substances were allowed to be released into the environment when appliances were treated at shredder facilities.

The RAL Quality Assurance Association wants all existing fridge recycling plants to be adapted to handle waste hydrocarbon units as well. The association believes that hydrocarbons must be extracted from a plant’s exhaust gas stream before being subjected to safe disposal or further treatment.

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