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Out of sight, out of mind

Is lack of awareness in proper disposal of HVAC equipment affecting the environment?

| | Mar 19, 2017 | 5:37 pm
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Sustainable waste management is a key issue that must be considered seriously. This gains urgency in the case of HVAC equipment that contain refrigerants, which could have potentially harmful effect on the environment. In the UAE, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has issued directives that support recycling and a proper waste management system. However, while some companies follow them, there is room for improvement.

Most of the equipment is reportedly still being sent to landfills. But there is no established procedure in place to confirm whether or not the refrigerants have been removed from the equipment before they are discarded. Thus, in case there are leakages, they could lead to refrigerants being released directly into the atmosphere. It is evident that such equipment require specialised waste management methods to ensure their safe disposal.

“There are three aspects to the recycling of HVAC equipment: First is the gases stage, the second is the compressor oil and the third is the metals,” said Stuart Fleming, Managing Director, Enviroserve. The process begins with the removal of CFC and HFC refrigeration gases from the air conditioning units prior to decommissioning, he explained, followed by extracting the compressor and compressor oil and, finally, dealing with the leftover metals. “Why throw it away when you can recycle it?” asked Fleming.

Each aspect is crucial, as the gases lead to global warming and ozone depletion, and the oils can seep through the soil to contaminate the water table. However, despite technology and expertise in place to ensure proper waste management, and despite the UAE government’s support in this regard, a general lack of awareness prevails among those disposing of air conditioning equipment.

“There’s no excuse for the country,” said Fleming. “We do have the facility for all three areas of recycling – the gas, the oil and the metal.” He believed that it is merely lack of education and a case of non-conformity to legislation.

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