What is the impact of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS)?

A number of natural and man-made mechanisms can affect the global energy balance and force changes in Earth's climate. Greenhouse gases are one such mechanism. Greenhouse gases absorb and emit some of the outgoing energy radiated from Earth's surface, causing that heat to be retained in the lower atmosphere. The gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 

Ozone depletion is a different environmental problem but is also caused by changes to the atmosphere caused by humans. Both the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion are due to chemicals released into the air by people’s activities. Another similarity is that CFCs are both ozone destroyers and greenhouse gases.

Fluorinated gases (‘F-gases’) are a family of man-made gases used in a range of applications. Because they do not damage the atmospheric ozone layer, they are often used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. However, F-gases are powerful greenhouse gases, with a global warming effect up to 23 000 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2), and their emissions are rising strongly.

How urgent is the problem?

The impacts on the climate of these fluorinated and brominated gases are well known and the international community decided to adopt some new regulations and goals through the Montreal (1995) and Kyoto (1997) protocols. The most recent international decision was the Kigali Amendment (2016), which aims to reduce the current consumption of fluorinated gases to 15% or 20% by 2048.

Complying with the Kigali Amendment would reduce the global temperature increase by 0.5° by 2100. If nothing is done, in 2050, fluorinated gases will represent 20% of total GHGs.

What can be done to reduce GHG's and ODS?

The best way to deal with these gases is to regenerate them. If this is not possible, they should be destroyed. Also during recycling of household apppliances, it is of utmost importance that fluorinated gases (e.g. from refrigerators or air conditioners) are removed and destroyed so that they can’t leak out into the atmosphere. Hazardous Waste Incineration facilities are well-equipped to do so.

From this perspective, it is important to notice that HWI facilities have a negative contribution to the overall GHG impact. Actually, in 2017, Eurits members facilities plants destroyed over 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 and GHGs. This is partially due to the GHGs avoided by generating energy from waste, but mainly because of the destruction of ODS.

*In 2018, HFCs account for 78 % of present fluorinated greenhouse gas supply and are used primarily as refrigerants in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) equipment. Other important uses of hydrofluorocarbons include as foam-blowing agents and in aerosols.