RAL CO2OL-Print: A climate protection indicator for WEEE takeback systems

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RAL-Gütezeichen Kühlgeräte (Quelle: RAL Gütegemeinschaft Rückproduktion von FCKW-haltigen Kühlgeräten e.V.)

Luxembourg – European manufacturers of refrigeration appliances have cradle-to-grave responsibility for their products. Their environmental footprint therefore covers not only the production and use stages, but also post-consumer processing. The CO2OL-Print tool developed by the RAL Quality Assurance Association for the Demanufacture of Refrigeration Equipment enables manufacturers to measure and visualize the carbon emission savings achieved when their end-of-life appliances undergo quality-assured demanufacturing: The process covers not only the removal and safe destruction of climatically relevant materials (CFCs, HFCs, etc.) but also the reintroduction into the production cycle of the secondary raw materials recovered during the demanufacturing process.

Reducing the carbon footprint by sustainable resource management is a key priority at all stages of a refrigeration appliance’s lifecycle, from product fabrication and product use through to end-of-life treatment. By making the environmentally sound processing of waste refrigeration appliances quantifiable, the RAL CO2OL-Print tool can help demanufacturers realize their goal of making the end-of-life treatment of refrigeration equipment more transparent to all stakeholders. The RAL tool enables manufacturers to demonstrate in a clear, unequivocal and transparent manner that they take product responsibility seriously and that this responsibility extends beyond the appliance production and use phases.

Calculating the total carbon emission reductions achieved by a particular fridge demanufacturing plant involves identifying and carefully quantifying all direct and indirect emissions of climatically harmful greenhouse gases associated with the treatment process and offsetting these against the amounts of CFCs and HCs recovered by the plant. The result is typically expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Specifically, the RAL CO2OL-Print tool comprises the following modules:

  • Monitoring of all material input streams (i.e. appliances entering the demanufacturing plant) and all material output streams (i.e. materials recovered during the demanufacturing process) on the basis of the EN 50574:2012 standard and the RAL GZ 728 Quality Assurance and Test Specifications Determining whether the requirements of the EN standard 50574:2012 and the associated Technical Specification TS EN50574-2:2014 and/or the RAL GZ 728 Quality Assurance and Test Specifications are being met in practice requires careful monitoring and logging of the masses of the waste appliances entering the plants, the composition of the input stream in terms of appliance type, type of refrigerant used and type of blowing agent used and the equivalent recording of the masses of all the plant’s material output streams. This data fundamental to the RAL CO2OL-Print methodology for determining the carbon efficiency of the plant.
  • Identification and quantitative assessment of climatically relevant products in the treatment plant’s output streams (primarily CFCs, HCs, plastics, metals, compressor oils, compressors)
  • Computation of the masses of climatically relevant materials for a specified period (monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, annually)
  • Calculation of the CO2 equivalents for a specified period
  • Quantitative determination of CO2 emissions along the demanufacturing chain (e.g. CFC losses, energy consumed for transport and for powering the demanufacturing plant).

The individual carbon footprint generated by a fridge demanufacturing company is calculated independently and impartially by the RAL Quality Assurance Association in accordance with the applicable industry standards (e.g. DIN ISO 14067, VCS Methodology “Recovery and Destruction of Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) from Products”). The results are subjected to random on-site checks by an accredited certification body.

Oversimplified estimations such as “… one waste fridge is equivalent to a reduction of x metric tons of carbon dioxide, so an annual plant throughput of, say, 2 million appliances corresponds to a reduction in carbon emissions of y metric tons” are simply not tenable. While sometimes found in advertising copy, this sort of statement is of no real value in terms of climate protection policy as it fails to take account of the actual recovery rates and efficiency levels of a particular treatment plant.

The RAL CO2OL-Print tool on the other hand is focused on the details and provides a neutral, transparent and complete quantitative picture of the carbon emission balance of a specific treatment plant. If the plant recovers a smaller quantity of CFCs than required by the relevant standards this will be reflected in lower carbon savings from the fridge demanufacturing operations. The RAL tool is thus an excellent means of realistically quantifying the environmental impact of an appliance manufacturer throughout the entire product life cycle, from cradle to grave. This information ensures that manufacturers can calculate their overall carbon footprint correctly and helps them to ensure that any appliance demanufacturing carried out on their behalf is sustainable and contributes positively towards achieving key climate protection targets.

Source: RAL Quality Assurance Association for the Demanufacture of Refrigeration Equipment