Waste handler jailed for CFC release

UNEP has repeated warnings to waste handlers after the owner of a Spanish recycling company received two years’ jail for releasing refrigerants to atmosphere.

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) reports that the investigation by the Environmental Protection Unit of the Civil Guards (SEPRONA) found that the recycling company in Soria, Spain, had been illegally handling electronic and toxic waste and releasing ozone-depleting and global warming refrigerants into the atmosphere.

The illegal activity was said to have been taking place since July 2013. As a result of the investigation, 600 electronic items including 203 refrigerators were confiscated. The investigation also found that the CFC refrigerants R11 and R12 had been released into the atmosphere, accounting for at least 331 tonnes of CO2 equivalents. In addition, over 40kg of mercury compounds had been dumped into the soil, and other toxic substances such as lead, cadmium and zinc were also found on the company’s premises.

SEPRONA discovered that the company was only authorised to recycle non-dangerous waste, not electronic or toxic waste. Scientific support for the investigation was provided by the technical unit of the Public Prosecutor´s Office.

This decision by Soria’s Criminal Court is the most recent in a series of similar decisions by Spanish Courts on the illegal release of CFCs into the atmosphere. In October 2016, the Public Prosecutor´s Office submitted another case to the Court in Madrid, in which 60kg of R22 had been offered for sale online. A one and a half year prison sentence and a daily fee during an 18-month period were demanded.
Earlier this year, the Public Prosecutor Office for the Protection of the Environment and SEPRONA received UN Environment’s Ozone Protection Award for customs and enforcement officers for their commitment and persistence in combating environmental crime. It is the second time that they received this award.