Chlorofluorocarbons (Fridges)

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th July 1989.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 12:00 am, 19th July 1989

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement about the reclamation of chlorofluorocarbons from redundant refrigerators and freezers.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

The recovery and recycling of CFCs used as refrigerants in industrial and commercial refrigerators and freezers is well established and my Department is currently engaged in research into ways of retrieving CFCs from domestic appliances.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he accept that the substantial problem relates to commercial freezers and refrigerators and that the problem is smaller for household freezers? The responsible firms that provide large fridges and freezers have been reprocessing for some time, but many small, badly behaved firms have not operated in a similar manner. Something must be done to bring them into line. Some local authorities have started to collect domestic freezers, but as yet they have no way in which to reprocess the refrigerators once they have been collected.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

I differ slightly from the hon. Gentleman in that commercial and industrial refrigerators are being retrieved in great numbers, although I accept that there is always room for improvement. The hon. Gentleman no doubt appreciates that the difficulty is that domestic refrigerators use smaller quantities of CFCs and, given that there are about 30 million users of them in the country, a much more sophisticated approach to collection and recycling is required. That is why I said that we are working extremely hard on this matter with the Department of the Environment, as is the refrigeration industry, which has given a great deal of thought and attention to it.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

My hon. Friend will remember that I brought a delegation from the refrigeration industry to see him. What has happened since then? Will he use his best endeavours to persuade all Government Departments to change their specifications to ozone-friendly refrigerants and to follow the Prime Minister's advice? Private sector firms such as Sainsbury have set a good example, but health authorities are still specifying R12.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

My hon. Friend speaks with considerable authority because he knows the industry well. As he said, he brought a delegation to me from the refrigeration industry board and the Institute of Refrigeration to talk about those matters. My hon. Friend makes a fair point. I am in constant touch with other Departments with a view to encouraging them to do much the same as we are doing.

Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin , Gateshead East

Are the Government considering the introduction of a nationwide CFC recovery scheme such as that which has been announced in West Germany? Does the Minister accept that it is simply not good enough to leave the matter to individual manufacturers who may be unwilling to take on the extra costs for competitive reasons, making a Government strategy and Government measures necessary?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

The hon. Lady should have realised from my answer that the Government are taking a lead in that respect. However, collection is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I am keen to encourage any local authority initiative in the collection of refrigerants. As I said, the industry is taking many measures to try to improve the position.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell , Gedling

Should not the Government be praised for having raised public perception of this important matter? Will my hon. Friend congratulate Gedling borough council on the specific initiatives that it has taken, on its own or with other local authorities, to organise the collection and reclamation of old domestic refrigerators and other domestic and commercial freezer units?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

The answer to both questions is yes, Sir.