The Air Up There: HTOC Speaks! Will the MOP Listen?

By: John Demeter
August 2010

We’ve written on more than one occasion of the international regulatory impediments of trading in recycled halons. Last month we re-ran a column originally published last year titled “In Search of Balance” in which we explained why halon cylinders will sit rusting in junkyards while in other parts of the world companies cannot find enough halon to meet their needs.

Our contention is that with the worlds halon factories effectively shut down, and with strong international regulations prohibiting the use of newly produced halons, the remaining world stocks (90,000 metric tons of halon 1211 and 50,000 metric tons of halon 1301) should be relatively free to move from those who no longer need it to those who do. To do otherwise – to restrict movement of recycled halons – will only increase the likelihood that halon will prematurely escape into the atmosphere, unless, of course, someone comes up with the money to fund the destruction of these stocks.

We were about to file away our copy of the Report of the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel – May 2010 but decided to re-read the section titled, “Halon Recovery and Recycling in Article 5 Countries”.

If you are worried about the environment, it is not encouraging. It reads in part:

Recent information indicates that there has been a further decline in recovery and recycling operations in Article 5 countries since HTOC’s last report. Operational costs have been increasing and technological skills have been found to be in short supply in many cases…….The necessary equipment is expensive and unavailable in Article 5 countries (to recycle and purify cross-contaminated stocks).

We are not surprised. And while we might agree that the absence of equipment and technicians to operate recycling facilities might be part of the cause, we suspect that a larger part of the problem lies in the tangle of regulatory chaos that companies face when attempting to move halon from where it is no longer needed to where it is.

This section of the HTOC report concludes with the following recommendation:

Parties (to the Montreal Protocol) may wish to consider strategies and propositions that will help non-functioning halon recovery and recycling operations become functional, to ensure the long term sustainability of these halon banking operations. These will be needed to provide for regional forecasted critical halon use requirements.

In our younger more brash days, we might have suggested that governments simply get out of the way. We know better now. HTOC has taken a good start to highlight the issues of halon stock “imbalances” throughout the world and the environmental danger inherent in unmonitored stocks of halons increasing around the world. We hope that the Members of the Parties heed the warning of this report. The issue isn’t that these actions are needed “to provide for regional forecasted critical halon use requirements”. The issue is that these actions are needed to prevent further damage to the ozone layer.

To View a PDF of this article, please click here: The Air Up There August 2010

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