RRA takes back all recovered refrigerant presented to it by the market. It is necessary for RRA to carefully forecast returns, budget costs, and calculate the required funding to remain viable in the long term. RRA takes advice from and consults within the industry to seek to determine the amount of refrigerant expected to be recovered, and the anticipated growth over time.
Potential Recovery FY21
RRA total collections in 2020/21 totalled 580 tonnes, and was comprised of 493 tonnes collected and destroyed, and a further 87 tonnes that were reclaimed to new specification. This equates to recovery effectiveness between 52% and 65%, depending on the volume available for recovery. This is calculated on the volumetric range of refrigerant available for recovery being between 1,940 and 2,440 tonnes. It is important to note that all potentially recoverable refrigerant is available for retention and reuse by contractors and equipment owners. The table below displays the numbers estimated for the 2020/21 financial year.
RRA takes back all recovered refrigerant presented to it by the market. To ensure the long-term viability of the recovery program it is necessary for RRA to carefully forecast returns, budget costs, and calculate the required funding. RRA takes advice from and consults within the industry to seek to determine the amount of refrigerant expected to be recovered, and the anticipated growth over time.
However, RRA is at the same risk of market and economic fluctuations, faces the same impacts of national regulatory changes, and operates in the same global industry as commercial organisations. Over the years RRA experienced the marked decline in economic activity due to the global financial crisis, the many and often unintended consequences of carbon pricing, the consequent increase in recovery once the carbon tax was repealed, the growing impacts of phasing down high GWP refrigerants, and the unprecedented upheaval caused by Covid-19.
To understand how much refrigerant is available for recovery it is necessary to first understand the size of the market and the applications to which new refrigerant will be applied. In 2020/21 sales of bulk refrigerant were in the order of 3231 tonnes. Understanding the applications provides a guide as to how much is available for recovery. Industry advice is that 251 tonnes is used for original equipment manufacturing, 681 tonnes for automotive air conditioning service, 414 tonnes for domestic air conditioning service, and 598 tonnes for commercial AC, and 1287 tonne is used in the refrigeration cold food chain. Please note the figures are approximations. The Australian refrigerant market has undergone substantial change over the past decade: original equipment manufacturing has decreased; imports of equipment already charged with refrigerant have increased; new and installed systems leak rates have significantly declined; and recycling and reuse has grown strongly.
It is only during service operations and decommissioning that refrigerant is available for recovery. Yet, much of the refrigerant used in service work is for replacing that which has leaked during operation. In the automotive sector it is estimated that while 681 tonnes are used in the service sector only between 330 and 490 tonnes of refrigerants are available for recovery from service and end of life motor vehicle combined. The domestic air conditioning sector continues to grow strongly with refrigerant in this sector accounting for more than 40% of the installed bank. As this type of equipment has very low leakage rates the quantity of refrigerant used for service is relatively small at 414 tonnes, and the volume available for recovery is estimated to be between 210 and 300 tonnes. Of the 1287 tonnes used in the commercial/industrial refrigeration cold food chain service sector approximately 200 to 250 tonnes are available for recovery.
The decommissioning and disposal of equipment, such as motor vehicles and air conditioning systems, provides the opportunity for recovering refrigerant. It is difficult to estimate the amount of refrigerant available from decommissioned equipment, and it is the sector where the greatest potential for increased recovery exists. Australia does not have product stewardship schemes for end-of-life motor vehicles or consumer durables such as refrigerators and air conditioners.
Approximately 700,000 motor vehicles are disposed of annually. As these are generally older vehicles about 80% will have air conditioning systems. Research indicates that EOL vehicles contain as much as 490 tonnes that should be available for recovery.
More than 16 million air conditioning systems are installed in Australia with an average charge of 1.6 kilograms. More than 60% of these systems were installed in the last eight years and will not be due for retirement for many years due to an average life of fifteen years. Using an annual leakage rate of 3% the amount available for recovery on decommissioning each year is somewhere between 1100 and 1260 tonnes.
The amount of refrigerant installed in domestic refrigerators and the refrigerated cold food chain represents 16% of the bank. Available recovery volume is not known with any certainty but is likely to be in the order of 200 to 250 tonnes per annum based the proportional size of the bank in this sector in relation to total estimated volume of refrigerant that reached the end of its useful life during the period.
Most refrigerant recovered in Australia is reused, most usually in the system from which it was extracted. The amount of refrigerant retained and reused by contractors and technicians is unknown. It is known that the volume retained for reuse increases in-line with refrigerant price and scarcity. In recent years, the supply of HCFC R22 has diminished as it is phased out. Ten years ago, RRA received more than 250 tonnes of R22 a year. As it has become less available the price has increased markedly leading to high levels of retention, reclamation, and reuse, causing the volume received to fall well below 40 tonnes per annum.
Calculating Percentage of Recovery FY 21
|Applications for new refrigerant (tonnes)|
|Refrigeration – Cold Food Chain||1287|
|Range of Estimations|
|Automotive Service & EOL||330||490|
|EOL Refrigeration- Cold Food Chain||200||250|
|Amount Retained for Reuse||1050||1320|
|Amount Available to be Returned||890||1120|
|Amount Returned to RRA||580||580|
NB: Based on the volume collected in 2020/21