Smuggled Coolants Destroyed to Protect the Ozone Layer


To protect the ozone layer and deter unscrupulous enterprises from smuggling illegal coolants, the EPA has since 2001 commissioned the MOF’s Customs Administration (CA) to destroy all the confiscated smuggled coolants. Annual subsidies are provided to the CA for all costs needed for the destruction. On 21 December 2021, the CA completed the bidding process to commission qualified disposal enterprises in the destruction operations, which are expected to destroy another 75 metric tons by the end of 2022.

Coolant ingredients like hydrochlorofluorocarbon, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), HALONs, and other fully halogenated CFCs all damage the ozone layer, and are listed for control by the Montreal Protocol. They are not easily combustible, but with a stable and toxin-free chemical characteristic, they’re usually stored in steel containers. Confiscated ones are normally placed in the customs’ warehouse. In recent years, the EPA and the CA have had multiple discussions on the operations and also together taken inventory in the warehouse, listing coolants in containers that are in poor status as the first batch to be destroyed. On 25 January 2021, a statement was issued based on the Montreal Protocol to announce that rotating kilns, cement kilns, and electric arc furnaces were to be used to destroy smuggled coolants. Currently, there are four industrial waste disposal enterprises that meet the operation standards.

Coolants have different physical characteristics than wastes. Most of them are in gas form, so regular incinerators need to be outfitted with special equipment to destroy them. Before 2004, Renwu Plant of Formosa Plastic Co., which manufactured coolants itself, was commissioned to destroy smuggled ones. The operation ceased after the plant sold its furnace. In the following years, the EPA sought help from disposal enterprises abroad and gave up because they charged NT$1 million per metric ton. And enterprises in Taiwan were unwilling to be commissioned, considering the major technical requirements and difficulty in facility renovations. The operation was put on hold as there was a small amount of smuggled coolants stored.

To build up domestic disposal capacity, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has since 2011 been commissioned to develop the technology needed. Trial burns to destroy coolants were subsequently conducted with rotating kilns, arc furnaces, and cement kilns, with all processes compliant with the air pollution control regulations. The EPA will keep collaborating with the CA and coordinating with relevant institutes as well as qualified disposal enterprises to destroy smuggled coolants. Meanwhile, efforts are ongoing in the development and transfer of necessary technology, with assistance for the CA in regular inventory and inspections on how proper and safe the steel containers are in the warehouse. The goal is to speed up the destruction of confiscated coolants.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, January 2022

Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)
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