RACA Journal June 2016 - Page 86

Letters to the editor to ban or not to ban? Disposable refrigerant canisters The debate on whether disposable refrigerant canisters should be banned locally continues as we get input from Afrox as well as some insight on how New Zealand dealt with the issue. Nadine Baird, product and business development manager – Chemicals and Refrigerants of Afrox The banning of disposable refrigerant cylinders is a hot, controversial topic found on many agendas in the refrigerant industry. There are obviously mixed arguments regarding this topic, depending on which side of the fence your marketing and sales strategy is pitched. The reality is that in South Africa, the disposable market is rife with imports from untrustworthy sources and these sources are usually much cheaper than the other, more reliable sources globally. The problem is that the quality of the product and/or the containers is questionable. These cylinders are usually not DOT39-certified/compliant, which is the minimum standard that reputable suppliers conform to. The importing of counterfeit disposable cylinders impacts the end user and could have detrimental effects on refrigerant systems. Some countries successfully banned disposables while others successfully continue using them – which option is best for SA? Due to economic constraints, cost has become a focus point for many, therefore purchasing cheaper disposable cylinders is on the rise. However, consumers need to weigh cost vs. quality and safety. Cheaper imports do not always meet the quality standards required by end users, which results in increased costs when systems need to be changed due to incorrect blends from the cheaper imports. Also, with the phase-out of HCFCs and talk of the phaseout of HFCs, alternatives include flammable gases, which 84 RACA Journal I June 2016 if not filled and packaged correctly, will raise even greater safety concerns. I have personally been witness to imports that contain R600a (a flammable product) that is incorrectly labelled as ‘non-flammable’ and supplied in a disposable cylinder with a normal right-hand (non-flammable) valve. In South Africa we do not have the capacity to police the imports of disposable cylinders, which means that we have an influx of ‘illegal’ disposable cylinders. It has been proven that some of these cylinders have major issues including: • Incorrect blend of products in the cylinders. • Incorrect quantities, not in line with stated volumes. • Decals and labelling not in line with South African standards, etc. The import of disposable cylinders needs to be better controlled and regulated with major focus on quality and safety as well as the requirements of the Department of Trade (DoT) standards. Moving to refillable cylinders like a number of other countries have already done is probably the only way to counteract the sub-standard product that is flowing into our country. Government also has a role to play. They could support companies by providing funding for the start-up of filling facilities to ensure that we work safely and help alleviate some of the cost elements of refilling operations. It is more important to safeguard an industry and consumers, rather than just looking at enriching ourselves with no regard for safety and quality of our customers and products. There is also the environmental aspect of disposing of these cylinders to consider – it is a known fact that our landfill space is limited. Due to the unregulated disposable of these cylinders – they can end up on landfills and still contain traces of HCFC and HFC – both unfavourable to the environment. Refillable cylinders however ensure better control and less likelihood of losses. Even production losses on filling plants is negligible in comparison to the losses from disposable cylinders due to the fact that there is no control once disposable cylinders are sold to customers. www.hvacronline.co.za