It may be hard to believe, but it has been more than a decade since government regulations first required the industry to perform procedures that quickly became known as recovery, recycling, and reclaim. These procedures are still required. In the early days, the terms often got confused. Many interchanged the words, to the point that the three distinct processes actually seemed one process, called “recoveryrecyclingreclamation.”

It never hurts to brush up on the definitions of these terms, and many manufacturers provide definitions in their technical publications. For example, DuPont includes the most up-to-date information concerning the terms in the company’s “Suva Refrigerants Technical Reference Manual.”


“Recovery refers to the removal of refrigerants from equipment and collection in an approved recovery container,” the company states. “As defined by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), recovery does not involve processing or analytical testing.

“Refrigerants may be recovered from refrigeration equipment using permanent onsite equipment or one of the portable recovery devices now on the market. The portable devices contain a small compressor and an air-cooled condenser, and may be used for vapor or liquid recovery. At the end of the recovery cycle, the system is evacuated to remove vapors.

“Before purchasing a specific recovery unit, check with the manufacturer to be sure that it contains elastomeric seals and compressor oil compatible with refrigerants.”


“Refrigerant recycle refers to the reduction of used refrigerant contaminants using devices that reduce oil, water, acidity, and particulates,” writes DuPont. “Recycle is usually a field or shop procedure with no analytical testing of refrigerant.

“Refrigerants may be recycled using many of the devices now available, providing that the entire charge is removed from the refrigeration equipment and recycled.

“If you routinely recycle refrigerants through several cycles,” the company continues, “we recommend that you have the composition of the refrigerant checked periodically. This will prevent loss of performance, in the unlikely event that the composition has shifted.”

Reclamation, Disposal

“Reclamation refers to the reprocessing of used refrigerants to ARI 700 specifications. Quality of reclaimed product is verified by chemical analysis. Contact the manufacturer or authorized distributor for further information.

“Reclamation offers advantages over onsite refrigerant recycling procedures,” DuPont says, “because these systems cannot guarantee complete removal of contaminants. Putting refrigerants that do not meet new product specifications back into expensive equipment may cause damage.”

One other term that is part of the recovery-recycling-reclamation equation concerns disposal of refrigerants that no longer have any value as an aftermarket product.

By the DuPont definition: “Disposal refers to the destruction of used refrigerants. Disposal may be necessary when refrigerants have become badly contaminated with other products and no longer meet the acceptance specifications of the manufacturer and other reclaimers. Be sure to check the qualifications of any firm before sending them used refrigerants.”

Publication date: 03/03/2003