Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol developed nations have ceased production of new CFCs, halons and other ozone depleting chemicals (ODCs) to protect the ozone layer. Trade controls on the supply of these substances have been put in place to ensure compliance with the Protocol. Existing CFCs are re-used and recycled where possible. Nevertheless, the increasing price of CFCs as a result of the ban on new production has led to a wave of international smuggling.
Usually, when ozone-depleting substances are discarded or removed from equipment during the course of maintenance they become controlled waste. In Britain, the 1990 Environmental Protection Act ensured that waste chemicals which may contribute to stratospheric ozone depletion are disposed of as carefully as possibly to avoid any release to the atmosphere.
The production and consumption of new halons (ODCs containing bromine) has already ceased under the terms of the Montreal Protocol. However, whilst replacements have been developed these cannot be used in existing systems, which can only be maintained with recycled halons using surplus material from redundant installations. In the UK the Halon Users’ National Consortium (HUNC) is managing the installed banks of halons, acting as a clearing house putting those who need to continue to use halons in contact with those who do not.
The Montreal Protocol and subsequent London and Copenhagen Amendments have demanded that existing CFCs should be recovered, recycled and re-used where possible. In the UK commercial users of refrigeration and air conditioning appliances can contact the Refrigeration Industry Board to ensure that best industrial practice is maintained during the disposal or re-use of CFCs. Domestic users of old refrigerators can contact their local authority to find out if it operates a CFC recovery and recycling scheme.
The Montreal Protocol works through a system of trade barriers controlling supply to the market of ozone depleting chemicals. Imports of newly produced CFCs and halons by developed countries have already been banned, as have imports and exports in the ODCs carbon tetrachloride and 1,1,1 trichloroethane. Developing countries have been granted a period of grace to comply with the Montreal Protocol, to avoid undue stresses on their growing economies.
As a result of the decline in the production and use of CFCs, and the continuation of CFC production in developing countries (allowed under the provisions of the Montreal Protocol until 2010), the lure of illegal trade in CFCs is obvious. Significant volumes of illegal imports of CFCs into Western Europe have been reported, even though production in Western Europe ceased at the end of 1994. Unfortunately, the Montreal Protocol currently does not require Parties (countries) to implement controls against illegal trade, although they have been urged to install verification programs to reduce illegal trade in ODCs.