Guidance

Recover F gas when disposing of equipment and insulating foam

How to recover fluorinated greenhouse gases (F gases) from equipment like refrigeration systems and insulating foam when disposing of them.

If you own or operate equipment that contains fluorinated greenhouse gas (F gas), you must hire a qualified technician to recover the F gas when the equipment reaches the end of its life.

See a list of F gases regulated by the EU that you must recover from equipment.

Equipment is at the end of its life when you dispose of it or permanently stop using it.

Find out the qualifications required to recover F gas. Different types of equipment like refrigeration systems, solvents and high voltage switchgear, require different qualifications.

Equipment F gas must be recovered from in all cases

F gas must be recovered from the following equipment before you dispose of it:

  • commercial or industrial refrigeration systems and refrigeration systems used in trucks, trailers, ships and other vehicles
  • stationary air conditioning and heat pump systems (eg air conditioners that are fitted to buildings and can’t be moved)
  • portable or mobile air conditioning systems
  • stationary fire protection systems (eg automatic fire response systems in large buildings)
  • high voltage switchgear

F gas must also be recovered from solvents, eg fluorinated solvents used in industrial cleaning processes.

Equipment F gas must be recovered from when possible

F gas must be recovered from other equipment, like foam insulation or aerosols, if both of the following apply:

  • it’s technically feasible
  • it doesn’t involve disproportionate cost.

Your technician will advise you about the technical feasibility and expense.

You can also contact the Environment Agency if you want to check whether it’s cost effective and feasible to recover an F gas.

There are also guidelines about when it’s feasible and proportionate to recover F gas from foam insulation and aerosols.

Foam insulation

It’s considered feasible and proportionate to recover F gas from foam insulation if the foam can be separated from other materials. That’s the case with:

  • block foam used to insulate pipes or vessels
  • steel faced insulation panels, once they’re cut up

It’s not considered feasible and proportionate to recover F gas if the insulation can’t be easily separated from other material, eg if it’s part of a laminated panel. But you must treat the combined material as hazardous waste if it contains any of the following:

  • HFCs
  • hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs).

Aerosols

It’s not considered cost effective to recover gas from individual aerosols (like spray paints or deodorants). But if you collect large quantities of aerosols together, you should send them to a licensed waste facility so the F gas can be recovered.

Contact your local authority to find out about your nearest licensed waste facility.

Options for recovering F gas from different equipment types

Your technician will need to recover F gas from the following types of equipment before the equipment is dismantled:

  • stationary air conditioning and heat pump systems
  • stationary fire protection systems, eg an automatic system installed in a large building
  • any refrigeration system where the refrigerant isn’t hermetically sealed within the equipment

F gas is hermetically sealed in equipment if both of the following apply:

  • any part of the product that contains F gas is welded or brazed shut, or permanently sealed in another way
  • the product has a tested leakage rate of less than 3 grams per year

A system that meets these 2 conditions is considered hermetically sealed even if it has capped valves or capped service ports to allow access for repairs and maintenance.

Hermetically sealed systems

For hermetically sealed refrigeration systems, and hermetically sealed portable air conditioners, you can do either of the following:

  • get your technician to recover the gas before the unit is dismantled
  • send the whole unit to a licensed waste facility

Contact your local authority to find out about your nearest licensed waste facility.

Foam insulation

You must make sure foam insulation is separated from other material and sent to a licensed waste facility.

Contact your local authority to find out about your nearest licensed waste facility.

You don’t have to do this if you’re sending the entire piece of equipment to a licensed waste facility, eg if you’re sending a refrigeration system that contains foam insulation to a licensed waste facility.

Reclaim recovered F gas

You can send the following types of F gas to specialist reprocessing plants where they can be ‘reclaimed’ and sold:

  • refrigerants
  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in foam insulation
  • HFCs used in fire protection systems
  • SF6 from high voltage switchgear
  • propellants from aerosols
  • solvents

Speak to the technician that is recovering your F gas about how to send gas for reclamation.

Recycle recovered F gas

It’s sometimes possible to recycle the following gases at your premises when you’re decommissioning your system:

  • refrigerants used in eg refrigeration or air conditioning systems
  • HFCs used in fire protection systems
  • SF6 from high voltage switchgear
  • propellants from aerosols
  • solvents

Ask the technician recovering the F gas if it’s possible to recycle it. The technician will carry out a basic cleaning process when they recover the gas if it’s possible. The gas can then be re-used.

Recycled gas with a global warming potential of more than 2,500 can only be used in equipment owned or operated by either the:

  • company that owned the refrigeration system from which the F gas was recovered
  • organisation that carried out the recovery

You can find out the global warming potential of F gases on the table of F gases regulated by the EU.

Destroy recovered gas

You can send recovered F gas to a licensed waste facility for incineration.

Contact your local authority to find out about your nearest licensed waste facility.

Published 31 December 2014