After 20 year battle, Green Refrigerants finally legal in the U.S.

EPA legalizes a safe alternative to climate-destroying HFCs in home refrigerators

Media release - December 14, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC—The EPA has finally issued a rule making greener refrigeration gases legal in household refrigerators and some commercial freezers. Currently refrigerators and freezers in the U.S. contain HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), which are thousands of times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, pound for pound. HFCs are responsible for a significant and growing portion of global warming. The new EPA rule legalizes hydrocarbon refrigerants to replace some uses of these dangerous chemicals.

“Opening the U.S. market is a significant milestone that we’ve been working towards for years,” said Amy Larkin, Greenpeace Solutions Director,  “Greenpeace has collaborated globally with multinational corporations and governments for two decades to make green refrigeration a reality.  EPA’s new rule will open the North American market and enable the entire industry to transform manufacturing over to the GreenFreeze-style models. Now it’s time to eliminate HFCs from all refrigeration and cooling applications across all industries.”

Twenty years ago, Greenpeace pioneered this technology by developing the “GreenFreeze” hydrocarbon-cooled refrigerator.  At that time the chemical industry was promoting HFCs as the “environmental alternative” to the ozone layer destroying CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) which were phased out by the Montreal Protocol. Since 1993, over 600 million Greenfreeze type refrigerators have been sold worldwide by leading major appliance manufacturers, except in the United States and Canadian markets where they were not legal until the EPA’s new rule.   At least 40 percent of global household refrigerator production now employs hydrocarbons instead of HFCs. 

EPA approval was motivated by the efforts of three main applicants.

  • The approved alternative R-441A, a blend of hydrocarbon gases was developed by AS Trust & Holdings, a small business based in Hawaii.
  • GE is introducing a household refrigerator to the U.S. market using isobutane gas as the refrigerant.
  • Ben and Jerry’s submitted its application and testing data to deploy propane cooled ice cream freezers like the ones Unilever already uses in Europe and elsewhere.

“After many years of hard work, we congratulate Ben & Jerry’s, AS Trust and Holdings and General Electric for this tremendous accomplishment, and we know other companies are waiting in the wings to use these alternatives” said Kert Davies, Greenpeace Research Director, ”This has the potential to significantly reduce the impact of refrigeration on global warming and opens the door for more solutions.  We overcame a deliberate and protracted campaign of misinformation by companies who preferred the status quo—now Americans can choose green refrigeration for their homes.” 

Natural refrigeration solutions exist today, using hydrocarbons, ammonia and carbon dioxide. Some natural refrigeration options are in widespread use, others nascent in the marketplace. As countries around the world begin to ban HFCs, these newer technologies are expected to become the standard for cooling.

Greenpeace has worked with numerous multinational corporations and small businesses for years to push for the EPA to legalize green refrigeration alternatives in the United States.  Last year, at the urging of Greenpeace Solutions Director Amy Larkin, the Consumer Goods Forum, a consortium of 400 consumer brands and retailers, resolved to eliminate HFCs from their refrigeration and cooling systems starting in 2015.   When implemented, this action will eliminate 2 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next 40 years. 

Although Greenpeace is best known as a fierce opponent to corporate polluters, the organization also works in cooperation with big business when corporate leadership is ready to transform its actions on behalf of the environment.

Companies that manufacture hydrocarbon-cooled refrigerators worldwide include: Bosch, Haier, Panasonic, LG, Miele, Electrolux, Whirlpool, and Siemens.

 

###

 

Contact: Molly Dorozenski, Media Director, 917-864-3724

Kert Davies, Research Director, 202-413-8515

Amy Larkin, Solutions Director, 646-522-0291

 

Background for reporters:

Greenpeace Greenfreeze 

Refrigerants Naturally: Greenpeace has collaborated with CocaCola, Unilever (Ben and Jerry’s), PepsiCo and McDonalds in the Refrigerants Naturally project, which won the 2011 Roy Family Environment Award from Harvard’s Kennedy School

Consumer Goods Forum agrees to phase out HFCs