IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

10.4.8 Fluorinated gases: end-of-life issues, data and trends in the waste sector

The CFCs and HCFCs regulated as ozone-depleting substances (ODS) under the Montreal Protocol can persist for many decades in post-consumer waste and occur as trace components in landfill gas (Scheutz et al., 2003). The HFCs regulated under the Kyoto Protocol are promoted as substitutions for the ODS. High global-warming potential (GWP) fluorinated gases have been used for more than 70 years; the most important are the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with the existing bank of CFCs and HCFCs estimated to be >1.5 Mt and 0.75 Mt, respectively (TFFEoL, 2005; IPCC, 2005). These gases have been used as refrigerants, solvents, blowing agents for foams and as chemical intermediates. End-of-life issues in the waste sector are mainly relevant for the foams; for other products, release will occur during use or just after end-of-life. For the rigid foams, releases during use are small (Kjeldsen and Jensen, 2001, Kjeldsen and Scheutz, 2003, Scheutz et al, 2003b), so most of the original content is still present at the end of their useful life. The rigid foams include polyurethane and polystyrene used as insulation in appliances and buildings; in these, CFC-11 and CFC-12 were the main blowing agents until the mid-1990s. After the mid-1990s, HCFC-22, HCFC-141b and HCFC-142b with HFC-134a have been used (CALEB, 2000). Considering that home appliances are the foam-containing product with the lowest lifetime (average maximum lifetime 15 years, TFFEoL, 2005), a significant fraction of the CFC-11 in appliances has already entered waste management systems. Building insulation has a much longer lifetime (estimated to 30-80 years, Gamlen et al., 1986) and most of the fluorinated gases in building insulation have not yet reached the end of their useful life (TFFEoL, 2005). Daniel et al. (2007) discuss the uncertainties and some possible temporal trends for depletion of CFC-11 and CFC-12 banks.

Consumer products containing fluorinated gases are managed in different ways. After 2001, landfill disposal of appliances was prohibited in the EU (IPCC, 2005), resulting in appliance-recycling facilities. A similar system was established in Japan in 2001 (IPCC, 2005). For other developed countries, appliance foams are often buried in landfills, either directly or following shredding and metals recycling. For rigid foams, shredding results in an instantaneous release with the fraction released related to the final particle size (Kjeldsen and Scheutz, 2003). A recent study estimating CFC-11 releases after shredding at three American facilities showed that 60–90% of the CFC remains and is slowly released following landfill disposal (Scheutz et al., 2005a). In the US and other countries, appliances typically undergo mechanical recovery of ferrous metals with landfill disposal of residuals. A study has shown that 8–40% of the CFC-11 is lost during segregation (Scheutz et al., 2002; Fredenslund et al., 2005). Then, during landfilling, the compactors shred residual foam materials and further enhance instantaneous gaseous releases.

In the anaerobic landfill environment, some fluorinated gases may be biodegraded because CFCs and, to some extent, HCFCs can undergo dechlorination (Scheutz et al., 2003b). Potentially this may result in the production of more toxic intermediate degradation products (e.g., for CFC-11, the degradation products can be HCFC-21 and HCFC-31). However, recent laboratory experiments have indicated rapid CFC-11 degradation with only minor production of toxic intermediates (Scheutz et al., 2005b). HFCs have not been shown to undergo either anaerobic or aerobic degradation. Thus, landfill attenuation processes may decrease emissions of some fluorinated gases, but not of others. However, data are entirely lacking for PFCs, and field studies are needed to verify that CFCs and HCFCs are being attenuated in situ in order to guide future policy decisions.