On November 15, 1990, President George Bush signed the Clean Air Act Amendments, which include requirements for stratospheric ozone protection. In addition to production phaseout requirements, the Act requires that refrigerants from all air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment — including vehicle air-conditioning units at disposal — be recovered. As an automotive recycling professional, your business is covered by the new regulations. This Question and Answer Document will help you become familar with stratospheric ozone depletion, the federal law and your new responsibilities.

Is ozone depletion a serious problem?

Yes! Scientists worldwide have concluded that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, which include CFC-12, a trade name for which is Freon) deplete the ozone layer. CFCs have been used in the manufacturing of many products, such as foam insulation, electronics equipment, refrigerators and air conditioners. When allowed to escape, these chemicals drift some 30 miles above the Earth to the stratospheric ozone layer — a layer of gas that screens us from the sun’s powerful ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation. Once there, CFCs break apart — a process that releases chlorine, which then attacks ozone. A single chlorine atom can destroy more than 100 thousand ozone molecules.

The ozone layer is being depleted over Antarctica (the so-called Antarctic ozone hole), but also to a much lesser extent over North America, Europe, and other populated areas. A depleted ozone layer allows more UV-B radiation to reach Earth, harming human, animal, and plant life in many ways. Scientists around the world agree that increased UV-B radiation could over the long run cause a rise in cases of skin cancer and cataracts. Also, increased radiation could damage important food crops and marine ecosystems.

What action has been taken to protect the ozone layer?

The United States first moved to protect the ozone layer in 1978 when CFCs were banned as propellants in most aerosol products. In 1989, the US joined other countries in signing an international treaty known as the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer. Since then, these countries (now over 135) have agreed to phaseout the production of ozone-depleting substances, including CFCs, in developed countries by the end of 1995.

How does the Clean Air Act affect motor vehicle disposal?

Section 609 of the Act covers the servicing of motor vehicle air conditioners, while section 608 establishes a “safe disposal program” to ensure the removal of refrigerant from vehicles and other appliances before disposal. The automotive recycling industry is covered by the section 608 final rule published on May 14, 1993 (58 FR 28660).

What are the requirements of section 608 final rule for the automotive
recycling industry?

The rule requires that refrigerant be removed from motor vehicle air-conditioning systems before the vehicle is dismantled or crushed. The refrigerant must be removed using recovery equipment that meets the performance standard of 102 mm of mercury vacuum. The equipment need not be U.S. EPA certified (you can even build your own), but any equipment you use must meet this minimum vacuum requirement.

Equipment must have been registered with the U.S. EPA within 20 days of purchasing it. A sample form is attached. If you miss the date, it is important to send the form in as soon as possible.

Technician certification is required for the servicing sector, but it is not required for the technicians in the automotive recycling industry who only remove refrigerant. U.S. EPA does recommend that you instruct technicians how to properly use the CFC recovery equipment.

Under the section 608 rule, whenever refrigerant changes ownership, it must be cleaned to the ARI 700-93 standard of purity. You must sell the refrigerant you collect to a reclamation facility so that it can be purified before reuse. Refrigerant may not be sold to a service station once it has been recovered from an automobile destined for dismantling, unless it has been reclaimed first.

Is more information on ozone depletion and federal regulations

Additional information is available through the Stratospheric Ozone Information Hotline. This toll free public service is available Monday through Friday, 10;00 a.m. to 4;00 p.m. (EST), except on federal holidays. The Hotline number is (800) 296-1996.

Source: US EPA in cooperation with Automotive Recyclers Association

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