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.



Emission reductions are considered permanent if they are not reversible. In some projects, such as forestry or soil preservation, carbon offset credits are issued based upon the volume of CO2 that will be sequestered over future decades—but human actions and natural processes such as forest fires, disease, and soil tillage can disrupt those projects. When that happens, the emission reductions claimed by the project are reversed.

The destruction of halocarbon does not carry this risk. All destruction activities in Tradewater’s projects are conducted pursuant to the Montreal Protocol , which requires “a destruction process” that “results in the permanent transformation, or decomposition of all or a significant portion of such substances.” Specifically, the destruction facilities Tradewater uses must meet or exceed the recommendations of the UN Technology & Economic Assessment Panel , which approves certain technologies to destroy halocarbons, including the requirement that the technology achieve a 99.99% or higher “destruction and removal efficiency.” Simply put, this means that Tradewater’s technologies ensure that over 99.99% of the chemicals are permanently destroyed. During the destruction process, a continuous emission monitoring system is used to ensure full destruction of the ODS collected.


Some carbon offset projects necessarily rely on estimations or assumptions when calculating the emission reductions from project activities. Forestry projects, where developers make assumptions about the carbon that will be sequestered over future decades if trees are conserved, are a perfect example. Such projects sometimes result in an overestimation of the environmental benefit of the project.

Tradewater’s halocarbon projects avoid the issue of overestimation by consistently conducting extremely precise testing and measurement of the amount of refrigerant destroyed in each project.

  • Every container of ODS that Tradewater destroys is weighed by a third-party using regularly calibrated scales. The ODS is then sampled by a third-party and analyzed by an accredited refrigerant laboratory to determine its species and purity. These two steps combine to ensure that credits are issued only for the precise volume and type of refrigerant destroyed.
  • The destruction facilities that Tradewater uses continuously monitor the incineration process during destruction events to ensure that over 99.99% of the ODS is destroyed. This monitoring is mandated by regulatory protocols and is part of the verification process to which projects are subjected.
  • Tradewater accounts for the project emissions created during the collection, transport, and destruction of ODS, and the number of offsets issued is reduced by a corresponding amount. The protocols that we use also build in other reductions to account for substitute chemicals that will be used to replace the destroyed refrigerants. Tradewater publishes this information in the documentation for all its ODS destruction projects. These documents outline how the material was obtained, the project emissions calculations, the test results, and the amount and type of ODS chemicals destroyed, among other information.
  • Additionality

    It is a basic requirement of all carbon offset projects that the underlying project activities are additional. “Additional” means that the projects would not happen in the absence of a carbon market. Tradewater’s halocarbon projects simply would not happen – and the gases would be left to escape into the atmosphere – without the sale of the resulting carbon offset credits. This is because there is no mandate to collect and destroy these gases. It is still permissible to buy, sell, and use halocarbons that were produced before the ban. There are other reasons halocarbon destruction projects are additional:

    • There are no incentives or financial mechanisms to encourage halocarbon destruction. According to the International Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Program, “there is rarely funding nor incentive” to recover and destroy ozone depleting substances in storage tanks and discarded equipment. And collecting, transporting, and destroying halocarbons is time-intensive and expensive. The burden to collect and destroy these gases therefore remains prohibitive outside of carbon offset markets—meaning that if organizations like Tradewater do not do this work, nobody else will.
    • Countries are not focused on the need to collect and destroy halocarbons. The Montreal Protocol has been celebrated as a success because of its production ban. This success, however, ignores the legacy gases produced before the ban and is a blind spot for government regulators. In the U.S., for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a Vintaging Model in the 1990s to estimate the quantify of ozone depleting substances left in circulation. Based on the inputs and assumptions put into the model, the EPA predicted that no CFCs would be available for recovery beyond 2020 in the United States. But this prediction did not prove accurate. Tradewater has collected and destroyed more than 1.5 million pounds of CFCs globally in recent years and continues to identify thousands of pounds per week.
    • International carbon accounting standards do not require corporations to measure or track emissions tied to halocarbons, and refrigerants are specifically excluded from Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitments. These commitments derive from emissions reporting under the GHG Protocol, which requires companies to report on emissions only from new generation refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), but does not establish any obligation to report inventories or emissions of refrigerants still in use, such as CFCs and HCFCs. All these factors combine to make Tradewater’s carbon offset projects highly additional. As Giving Green, an initiative of IDinsight, concluded: “Tradewater would not exist without the offset market, so this element of additionality is clearly achieved.” The case for additionality is not so clear for some other project types, such as forestry and landfill gas carbon projects. For example, some forests are already being conserved for their beauty, or for use as parks, and generate carbon offset credits only because those conservation efforts do not yet have full formal protection in place to avoid deforestation in the future. Similarly, methane from landfills can be used to make electricity or captured as compressed natural gas, thereby creating additional revenue streams to support the activities, beyond the sale of carbon credits.