Providing the Final Piece: Destroying Refrigerant in the Dominican Republic

María José Gutiérrez Murray

In our search for refrigerant gases around the world, we come across all sorts of circumstances. Despite global regulations placed on the use of refrigerants, no international standard has been developed for the handling and disposing of these potent greenhouse gases (GHG). This leads to nuances and complexities around their management around the world.

In practice, the work of destroying refrigerant can include stakeholders who promote and/or conduct regeneration and recycling of refrigerants, as well as those whose practices may unintentionally or intentionally leak refrigerant gases from equipment or cylinders.

But mostly, we find stakeholders of all kinds who are just trying to do the right thing to keep these gases from reaching the atmosphere. This can be challenging due to limited access, if any, to affordable disposal approaches and technology.

Dominican Republic is not the exception. In a recent project here, Tradewater partnered with local stakeholders to successfully collect and destroy 3,393 kilograms (7,480 pounds) of CFC, HCFC and HFC refrigerant. This prevented 23,656.86 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from being released into the atmosphere.

Assessing the Local Refrigerant Situation

Encouraged by a capable and environmentally aware government authority, technicians in the Dominican Republic had accumulated a significant stockpile of old refrigerants. They had mixed and aggregated various recovered refrigerants into five 1,000 lb. cylinders. The stockpile also included one hundred 50 lb. disposable cylinders of unused CFC-12, left over from an importer who had sought its disposal when it was deemed harmful for the environment.

But as the stockpile sat awaiting funding mechanisms that allowed for its export and disposal, it remained at risk of being released into the atmosphere. Tradewater learned about the challenge and offered to provide local stakeholders with an end-of-life solution for these potent greenhouse gases – the “final piece” of the refrigerant management puzzle.

Building Solutions through Local Partnerships

A key partner in the project was SECIMAR, a local waste manager that was in possession of and authorized to handle the stockpile of refrigerants. Working closely with SECIMAR, Tradewater obtained all the necessary permits to export the cylinders of refrigerants to the United States where the gases were properly destroyed.

We accomplished this by creating commercial value from the avoided GHG emissions, through generating carbon offset credits that were then purchased by our community of supporters. Aggregating the funds collected through the sale of these credits allowed us to offer the resources necessary to find a solution in the Dominican Republic.

This project also included gases that are not eligible for carbon offset credits. These gases were mixed into the other gases Tradewater collected. Tradewater ultimately destroyed these gases because it was the right thing to do for the environment and it further helped solve a problem in the Dominican Republic. As a mission-driven company, Tradewater pursued a holistic solution rather than a partial one – and destroying all the gases was important to all the stakeholders, as well as to the environment.

A Global Community of Support

None of this work is easy. Recovering and handling stockpiles of refrigerants takes technical expertise and careful handling. Logistics are particularly difficult to handle, especially during a global pandemic with travel restrictions in place and limitations on the supply chain. The transboundary movement alone requires many permits and takes a long time. And yet, it’s possible.

The work of destroying refrigerants internationally may be full of challenges, but the world is even more full of stakeholders with an environmental heart and spirit who are keen to collaborate on feasible long-term solutions. By connecting our resources across borders, we can have a significant climate impact and destroy these dangerous refrigerant gases, permanently.