Canadian Reclaim Sets Standard

April 7, 2008
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Contractors in the United States have a few complaints about submitting refrigerant for reclamation. Among them are the costs to do such a noble thing, the complexity of reclamation options, and the sheer numbers of reclamation services promoting their procedures and incentives as the best.

Those contractors’ counterparts in Canada point to a system in that country that seems to be a lot less costly and confusing. Canadian contractors simply take recovered refrigerant back to their local supply houses, drop it off - and forget about it.

An industry-created and -regulated program called Refrigerant Management Canada (RMC) makes sure the returned refrigerant is either brought back to ARI-700 purity standards for reintroduction to the market, or sent for destruction in an environmentally acceptable way. The cost of the program is generated by a levy attached to each kilogram of refrigerant produced for the Canadian market. The refrigerant manufacturers pay that levy to RMC on the front end. The money stays in the industry to run the program. It does not go to government agencies.

GOOD PARTNERSHIP

“It has been good for everyone - manufacturers, wholesalers, contractors, and end users,” said Brian Baker, a contractor from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The RMC describes it as “a partnership between manufacturers, importers, reclaimers, contractors, and wholesalers in the Canadian refrigeration and air conditioning industry that is strongly supported by Environmental Canada [the Canadian counterpart of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency], the provincial environment ministries, and Friends of the Earth Canada.” RMC is administered by the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), which represents manufacturers, wholesalers, and contractors.

The current levy is $1.50/kg of refrigerant. In U.S. terminology, Baker said the levy would add about $20 to a 30-pound cylinder of R-22 that costs about $120 these days - assuming the levy that is paid to RMC by manufacturers is passed through the supply chain to contractors. The levy applies to CFCs and HCFCs, with R-22 being the primary refrigerant affected.

RMC’s elected chairman, Dennis Larson of Refrigerative Supply Ltd., Burnaby, British Columbia, said that even though refrigerant manufacturers participate voluntarily in the program, they are motivated to do it both as a demonstration of environmental responsibility and because the program allows for a third-party reclamation/destruction option.

Larson said virtually all refrigerant manufacturers supplying products to Canada, including all major manufacturers, are on board with the program.

Baker said that since end users own their refrigerant at jobsites, contractors typically explain the reclamation option to the owners when a piece of equipment needs to be replaced, or when there is a question about refrigerant purity. He said contractors can charge for the recovery services similar to normal service work provided.

The contractor then brings the recovered refrigerant to a wholesaler and, according to RMC, “provides information to the wholesaler concerning the content of the container, where the refrigerant originated, and other information pertinent to the program.” Wholesalers then store the refrigerant until “an appropriate volume of containers is reached.” Then, “the wholesaler will contact an RMC collection service provider who will arrange for containers to be shipped to their locations.”

Currently RMC has three collection service providers: Fielding Chemical Technologies in Mississauga, Ontario; Protocol Resource Management, Aurora, Ontario; and Refrigerant Services Inc., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At the reclamation sites, testing is done to determine the purity of the refrigerant and whether or not it can be brought back to ARI-700 purity standards, the same standard used in the United States.

Baker said contractors commit to the RMC because “we are just happy to get it” - refrigerant of questionable purity, that is - “the hell off our hands.” He said that, in general, contractors in Canada are not concerned about refrigerant banking and credit programs like those offered in the United States, which were designed to entice more stateside contractors to use reclamation services. He said Canadian contractors typically return to their wholesalers to purchase additional refrigerants at prevailing prices regardless of whether it is reclaimed or virgin, knowing both are at ARI-700 purity standards.

Publication date: 04/07/2008

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