Refrigerator recycling in Brazil

Project description

Title: Refrigerator recycling in Brazil
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
Country: Brazil
Lead executing agency: Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA) (Brazilian Ministry of Environment)
Overall term: 2008 to 2018

Context

Over 90 per cent of Brazilian households own a refrigerator, the majority of which are old appliances with high power consumption. Brazil is pursuing the goal of replacing these refrigerators, which often contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), with newer, more energy-efficient appliances. The aim is to recover the CFCs contained in old refrigerators and freezers in an environmentally sound manner. Brazilian energy providers are currently the driving force behind the replacement of refrigeration appliances because they are obliged to invest 0.5 per cent of their annual net income in social or environmental projects.

Some of these funds will be used to replace old refrigerators with new, energy-efficient ones free of charge. So far, about 50,000 low-income households in urban slums have been supplied with new refrigerators. It is estimated that roughly 50 million old appliances containing fluorinated refrigerants, such as refrigerators, freezers and commercial units, will have to be taken back and recycled over the next 10 years.

At the moment there is no effective recycling system for refrigerators. The CFCs contained in refrigeration appliances’ cooling circuits (25 per cent) and insulating foam (75 per cent) have a high global warming potential of 10,900 (CFC-12) and 4,750 (CFC-11) respectively. A system for environmentally sound recycling followed by destruction of non-recyclable refrigerants is urgently needed in order to prevent greenhouse gas emissions.

Objective

Brazil has established a take-back and recycling system for old domestic refrigeration appliances. More than 50 million old appliances and non-recyclable refrigerants will be recovered and recycled over the next 10 years.

Approach

The project is setting up a model recycling system for old refrigeration appliances in Brazil. To this end, it is providing the project partners with pilot plants where greenhouse gases contained in the cooling circuits and in the insulating foam can be recovered and destroyed. The Brazilian operating company Revert Brasil Soluções Ambientais Ltda is being trained to operate and maintain the plants. In addition, the project will help the Brazilian Government to introduce appropriate technical standards and regulations. These aim to guarantee that the pilot plants and other plants that commence operations in future maintain high quality practices and comply with environmental standards.

The project will also advise the Brazilian Government on setting up a model take-back system for household refrigeration appliances and on implementing statutory regulations in cooperation with stakeholder groups.

Results

The project has yielded the following results to date:

  • A recycling plant with an annual capacity of around 350,000 refrigeration appliances has been installed, allowing emissions of up to one CO2 equivalent to be avoided in future.
  • The components of refrigeration appliances separated during the recycling process, such as metals and plastics, are being reused by local industry.
  • The take-back and recycling of refrigeration appliances – as part of the exchange schemes operated by electricity providers, for example – is an attractive economic proposition.
  • The Brazilian Government has adopted the Solid Waste Policy. This stipulates the implementation of a take-back system in accordance with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. Since the law was passed, a working group has been discussing the problem of taking back WEEE. It is currently working on reaching an agreement as to areas of responsibility and ways of running a national take-back system.
  • The involvement of refuse collectors is a high political priority. Representatives of refuse collector groups are participating in the government working groups which are addressing the implementation of the new waste policy and take-back systems.
  • Standards and norms are being disseminated.
  • The project is sending out a clear signal to Latin American and South American countries. They are following developments with great interest at regular network meetings organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).