ARA Expresses Concerns Over New Refrigerant

The Automotive Recyclers Association has expressed concern to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency over the recyclability, safety, and feasibility of the proposed HFO-1234yf refrigerant regarding the environment, automotive recycling employees, and the general public.

The comments were offered in the context of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to approve the new substitute refrigerant, HFO-1234yf, under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program. Alternative refrigerants accepted by the program have generally been accepted for use in Canada.

While the association says it fully supports the intent of the SNAP Program to evaluate and regulate substitutes for the ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out under the stratospheric ozone protection provisions of the Clean Air Act, it is urging the EPA to look at the total life-cycle of the fluid, and consider all ramifications that may occur from the use, and ultimately, the disposal of the new fluid.

The recyclers association says that, while it appreciates the EPA’s obligations to identify the best available alternatives to ozone harming fluids, it has concerns.

Those concerns target the storage, disposal, occupational hazard, internal cost associated with specialized equipment, impact on air quality, and storm water run-off requirements.

The specific questions raised highlight the need for further information and in-depth research for handling this new fluid during the dismantling process of an end-of-life vehicle, to identify any associated occupational dangers or potential costs that could be incurred by automotive recycling facilities and their employees, or any environmental impact it may have to the public regarding air quality or storm water run-off, which are two key issues of concern for the professional automotive recycler. The current ruling does not address these concerns with any specificity.

According to the association, the EPA has expressed a willingness to address these issues and gain more of an understanding about the automotive recycling industry as it moves closer to administering a final rule.

“ARA is pleased that the EPA will address end-of-life disposal specifications in a follow-on rule-making, and looks forward to working with EPA staff on this matter,” said Michael Wilson, ARA executive vice-president. “Professional automotive recyclers have the expertise, availability, and willingness to assist the EPA with reaching a final decision that protects the environment, addresses safety concerns, and imposes the least amount of undue burden on the automotive recycling industry.”

The ARA represents over 4,500 auto recycling facilities in the United States and fourteen other countries around the world, including Canada. Buzz in the industry is that this will not be a problem for recyclers unless the new refrigerant proves unstable.