Guidelines for Recovery & Recycling 
Systems – Refrigeration Sector 
Phasing out ODS in Developing Countries 


3. Planning, Establishing and Operating R&R Systems

Planning R&R Systems

Establishing R&R Systems

Operating R&R Systems

Monitoring and Reviewing

4. Collecting Data

Analysis of the Existing Refrigeration Sector

Analysis of the Network for Distributing Refrigerants

Analysis of Trends and Future Demands

Estimation of the Potential for Refrigerant Recycling

5. Designing R&R Systems

Decentralized R&R Systems

Centralized R&R Systems

Technical Components of R&R Systems  

 3. Planning, Establishing and Operating R&R Systems

Proposal and approval

The National Ozone Unit (NOU) should be closely involved in the preparation of the RMP and Country Programme proposals, as well as the feasibility study for the R&R programme. The RMP and its individual projects are then approved separately by the Executive Committee of the Multilateral Fund.

Planning and establishment

Once approved, the planning and establishment of the R&R programme should be co-ordinated by the NOU, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders and with the support of local and international consultants and the relevant Implementing Agency. This chapter assumes that the NOU is the co-ordinating body for the establishment of the R&R system.

Operation and monitoring

R&R systems proceed through three key phases, which are described in the rest of this chapter: planning, establishment and operation. When they are up and running, monitoring and review should be carried out to ensure satisfactory progress.

Planning R&R Systems

During the planning phase, the NOU should focus on the following activities:

1. Collect the necessary data
2. Evaluate the need for the R&R system
3. Identify and involve the relevant stakeholders
4. Design the R&R system
5. Define equipment specifications and quantities
6. Evaluate the feasibility and economic viability of the system
7. Define the time schedule
8. Prepare project proposals and financing.
These eight steps are explained in more detail below.

Collect the necessary data


The first step in establishing the R&R system is to conduct a baseline survey of the existing refrigeration sector in order to assess the potential and economic feasibility of CFC recovery and recycling. Chapter 4 deals in more details with data collection, and provides templates of data sheets to be used for the data collection and preentation.

Evaluate the need

The NOU should evaluate the need for the R&R system under the national ODS phase-out programme. The NOU’s recommendations may be discussed internally in the National Environmental Protection Agency or the appropriate institutions within the Ministry of the Environment.

The need for the R&R system depends on factors such as:

• The commitment to protect the ozone layer
• The dependency on CFC-using refrigeration equipment in important industry sectors
• The lifetime of existing CFC-using refrigeration equipment, and its need for servicing
• The expected availability of new CFCs in the open market
• The need to save resources.

Identify and involve the relevant stakeholders


The ultimate success of an R&R system depends on its acceptance by the various stakeholders – refrigeration service companies and their associations, government bodies, wholesalers and importers and exporters of CFC refrigerants. It is therefore essential to involve these organisations in the development of the R&R system, and to ensure their commitment, at an early stage.

Design the R&R system


There are two types of R&R systems: decentralised and centralised. In certain cases, a combination of both types of system is appropriate. These different types of R&R systems are described in Chapter 5.

Different refrigerants such as R-11, R-12 or R-502 require different R&R equipment because of their thermodynamic properties. An overview of the necessary R&R equipment is provided in Chapter 5, and additional details are included in Annex 5.

Define equipment specifications and quantities


Once the data is available, and the R&R system designed, the equipment specifications can be defined, and the required quantities of equipment (including vehicles) determined. This has implications for the cost and feasibility of the system. Items, which need to be specified, include:

  • The required R&R capacity

  • The quality requirements of the recycled CFCs

  • The number and type of equipment

  • The number of cylinders

  • The number of filters and spare parts

  • The number of vehicles.

Evaluate the feasibility and economic viability of the system used for the data collection and presentation.

The feasibility of R&R systems needs to be investigated for each sub-sector, as well as for the refrigeration sector as a whole, since the conditions and performance criteria in each sub-sector may be different.

Appropriate R&R systems should be selected based on performance criteria such as environmental impact, cost-effectiveness and profitability. Chapter 6 examines the feasibility criteria in more detail.

Define the time schedule


The time schedule for the establishment of the R&R system and the training of the recipients depends of course on the time required for the project preparation and approval as well as the logistics for the purchase and distribution of the equipment.

However, it is more important that the necessary legislative framework and other support measures as mentioned in the Chapters 2 and 7 are implemented to ensure the successful operation of the system.

Prepare project proposals and financing


Once the feasibility of the R&R system has been demonstrated, the NOU should discuss with the national/international consultant in charge of preparing the RMP proposal how the different elements of the R&R system can be implemented.

The R&R system may be economically viable in itself. In this case, the NOU should – in consultation with relevant stakeholders – discuss the direct implementation of the system and ensure the commitment of the stakeholders.

Otherwise, government financing, or support by the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol, should be investigated. Project proposals need to include detailed time schedules and budgets. All financial considerations should take into account the cost implications of the necessary support measures, as described in Chapter 7. The procedures for requesting financial support are described in reference documents [6] and [10].

Establishing R&R Systems

Once the R&R system has been planned, the NOU should establish a work plan including the following steps:

1. Identify and approach service workshops and wholesalers
2. Purchase and distribute the R&R equipment
3. Train and supervise personnel
4. Establish transport logistics
5. Inform the public
6. Adopt quality procedures for recycled refrigerants
7. Adopt a strategy for the disposal of non-recyclable refrigerants
8. Manage financial and administrative issues.

Each of these steps is briefly described in the following sections.
Identify and approach service workshops and wholesalers


The first step in establishing the R&R system is to identify the workshops, which use CFC refrigerants. Wholesalers, importers and refrigeration associations should be approached in order to establish a register of service workshops. Workshops in the informal sector may be difficult to identify, as they are usually small and not registered to any organisation. However, wholesalers, importers or the larger workshops will often be able to provide information on the potential number of service workshops in the country.

When all the workshops have been identified, they should be informed of the planned R&R system – their full commitment to participation is important.

Purchase and distribute the R&R equipment


The purchase of R&R equipment will usually be co-ordinated by the Implementing Agency. The NOU needs to define the distribution criteria for the equipment, and organise the actual hand-over to the major servicing workshops.

The equipment purchase process includes the following:
• Specifying the required equipment
• Conducting a bidding procedure
• Ensuring guarantee and servicing in the country
• Selecting the appropriate suppliers
• Contracting.

The distribution of the equipment includes the following activities:
• Define the criteria, and establish the procedures, for selecting service workshops
• Plan the logistics of the equipment distribution
• Give a price to the equipment to ensure commitment and ownership
• Provide relevant information about the conditions to the service workshops
• Establish contractual agreement with the participating service workshops
• Distribute and hand over the equipment.

It is advisable to involve independent experts in the selection, purchase and distribution of the equipment.

Train and supervise personnel


The local refrigeration service companies scheduled to participate in the R&R system and receive R&R equipment should be closely involved in project preparation. Their service technicians should receive one-day introductory training on the specific features of the R&R equipment.

If the number of service workshops due to receive R&R equipment is limited (e.g. less than 30 companies), this introductory training can be provided directly. Where the numbers of service workshops and technicians are larger, the train-the-trainers approach should be considered.

This introductory training should be coordinated or combined with other training programmes, e.g. those on good practices in refrigeration, which are usually implemented at an early stage of the RMP and using the trainthe-trainers approach. These good practice courses provide training and practical hands-on sessions on the following subjects:

• Phase-out schedules for ODS under the Montreal Protocol
• The national Refrigerant Management Plan
• The effects of ozone layer destruction
• Basic principles of refrigeration
• Good servicing practices, including recovery and recycling
• Use of R&R devices
• Preventive maintenance programmes and record keeping
• Retrofitting to alternative refrigerants
• General trade safety
• The RMP concept at the company level
• Refrigeration associations and certification schemes.

The trained trainers receive a participation certificate issued by the Government and the are supposed to train the remaining service technicians in the country on good practices in refrigeration.

Establish transport logistics


All R&R systems require logistical arrangements for the transport of R&R equipment, as well as for the refrigerant cylinders. These can be tied into existing distribution systems, e.g. for virgin refrigerants or spare parts.

Chapter 4 describes data collection on existing distribution systems.
In general, it is important to minimise the need for transport as much as possible, and to carefully plan the routes. Centralised R&R systems require more transport than decentralised systems.

Decentralised systems, on the other hand, require a greater number of recycling machines. The costs of each option have to be taken into account.

Keeping track of the logistics of the refrigerant movements requires an well organised reporting system as an integral part of the logistics system. This reporting system should include appropriate labelling of cylinders, declaration of recovered refrigerant and the completion of forms.

Inform the public


R&R systems will function more effectively if the general public, the owners and managers of refrigeration and air-conditioning units, and technicians of refrigeration service companies, understand why they are important.

This includes a recognition that servicing of CFC-based equipment should only be done by fully equipped and trained service personnel.

A range of information and public awareness tools are available: leaflets, posters, articles in newsletters, radio interviews, TV announcements, interventions at public schools and training institutes, and so on. These campaigns should be well co-ordinated with other awareness programmes within the Country Programme and the RMP.

Adopt quality procedures for recycled refrigerants

The proper operation of refrigeration equipment depends, amongst other factors, on the purity of the refrigerant. When charging recycled CFCs into a refrigeration system it is therefore important to ensure that the refrigerant meets the prescribed quality requirements of the equipment manufacturer
and supplier. This is important not only to ensure the proper operation and long lifetime of the equipment but also to fulfil the manufacturer’s guarantee conditions. The owners of the refrigeration equipment should be informed that they are receiving recycled refrigerants.

A full chemical analysis of recycled refrigerant requires sophisticated laboratory equipment such as a gas chromatograph, and will in general not be available for routine quality control. There are, however, other reliable and cost-efficient means for quality control, including:

• Using only certified R&R equipment
• Following the manufacturer’s instructions on changing oil and filters
• Employing only skilled personnel and providing appropriate training
• Testing acidity with paper strips
• Performing random chemical analysis checks as appropriate
• Performing preventive and visual inspections of the oil and the lubricant through the sight glasses
• Applying good practices and proper procedures
• Avoiding mixing refrigerants
• Using refrigerant identifiers to identify the type of the refrigerant or refrigerant mixtures
• Never using refrigerants after compressor burn-out (acidity)
• Using evaporation processes during recycling.

Procedures to ensure the quality of the recycled refrigerants is an important issue in the planning of the R&R system, and should feature strongly in training courses for users of recycling machines.

Adopt a strategy for the disposal of non-recyclable refrigerants

Experience shows that about 10-20% of recovered refrigerants cannot be recycled. This includes:

• Refrigerant recovered after compressor burn-out
• Mixtures of different types of refrigerant
• Residues from R&R processes.

In some countries, non-recyclable refrigerant can be returned through the chain of wholesalers to the refrigerant manufacturers responsible for disposal.

In other cases, this is not possible, but venting of contaminated or mixed refrigerant is bad practice and must be avoided – countries may ban the intentional venting. An economically feasible strategy for dealing with nonrecyclable refrigerant should therefore be adopted as part of the R&R system.

There are two main options:


Destruction strategies

Destruction technologies, such as rotary kiln incinerators, liquid injection incinerators, cement kilns, reactor cracking or gaseous/fume oxidation are currently limited to a few developed countries and are very cost-intensive. They are, in general, not yet available to LVC countries.


Containment strategies

Until appropriate destruction capacity is available to LVC countries, an intermediate containment strategy could be adopted – such as long-term storage until final destruction or shipping to established plants.

The immediate storage cost will be less than the destruction cost. The long-term cost for storage and destruction, however, may be higher if no alternative and cheaper technologies can be established, such as chemical neutralization of the refrigerant.


Manage financial and administrative issues

Careful monitoring and control of the use of the R&R equipment, and the budget for the R&R system, is essential.

To help ensure that service companies feel responsible for using the R&R equipment in a proper way, the equipment could be sold, or rented at a subsidised price. Prices should be balanced against the company’s benefit from using the equipment.

It is important that service companies follow instructions on reporting, so that the amount of recycled CFC can be monitored and experience on recycling activities evaluated and disseminated to other users, as well as to the Ozone Secretariat and the Executive Committee of the Multilateral Fund.
Further cost implications centralised R&R systems are discussed in Chapter 5.

Operating R&R Systems

Operating R&R systems requires the proper management of the recovery stations, recycling centers and transport logistics. Data on the performance of the R&R system needs to be collected to perform the necessary reporting and monitoring functions. The next section deals with monitoring and review.

All relevant individuals and stakeholders should be made aware of how the different aspects of the R&R system are managed and what their specific responsibilities are - e.g. concerning the collection of data and reporting.

This is especially important in centralized systems, where many companies have to co-operate.

Centralized and decentralized R&R system

Lessons learned for recent R&R programmes show that some difficulties may occur during the operation of both centralized and decentralized R&R systems (see Chapter 5). Corrective measures should be taken as soon as possible where the following conditions apply:


Price levels of refrigerants
• The price levels of CFC refrigerants are low compared to those of alternative refrigerants. Therefore it may be more profitable to use the R&R machines for alternative refrigerants rather than for CFC refrigerants.


Cost-benefit analyses
• Owners or managers of service workshops are not aware that R&R of refrigerants is profitable. Appropriate information and training may help to conduct proper cost-benefit analyses.


• The R&R equipment is not accepted by service technicians because it is not designed in a user-friendly manner. It should be portable or equipped with wheels, should not require heavy physical work (hand pumps), should run with the right voltage and should not require adapters or transformers, etc.


Selection of companies
• The use of the R&R equipment is not profitable for some of the participating service companies because the amount of refrigerant, which they can potentially recover/recycle, is too small. This situation may occur when companies applying for R&R equipment provide unreliable consumption data, knowing that only larger CFC consumers would receive R&R equipment. Especially companies servicing mainly domestic appliances may have difficulties to recover sufficient quantities of refrigerant.


Life time of R&R systems
• As technology develops towards alternative solutions, the share of CFC equipment and thus the recovery potential decreases over time.
This may influence the viability of an R&R scheme for CFC refrigerants.
Centralized systems
In centralized systems, where the service workshops are equipped with recovery machines only, some additional difficulties may occur during the operational phase:


Profitability for service workshops
• The economics for the individual service workshop can make it more profitable to recharge the recovered refrigerant directly back to the same equipment than transport it to the recycling center and pay a fee for recycling. That depends on the recycling fee and the price levels for virgin and recycled CFC refrigerants.


Collecting recovered refrigerants
• Some individual service workshops do not transport the recovered refrigerant to the recycling center because of the additional efforts and time required. A periodic collection of the recovered refrigerants and collective transport to the recycling center may improve the situation. However, the costs for operating such collection system need to be covered e.g. through the recycling fees at the recycling center.


Exchanging recovered and recycled refrigerants

• In some cases, workshop owners or managers do not agree to the rules and prices for exchanging recovered and recycled CFCs between the service workshops and the recycling center and therefore refuse to provide recovered refrigerant to the center. For some companies it even proved to be cost-efficient to purchase their own recycling machine. The involvement and commitment of all relevant stakeholders at an early design stage is important and appropriate training may support such commitment. The above mentioned rules depend on whether the recycling center is run as a profit center, whether it is run as a refrigerant bank, whether it is responsible for the collection of recovered refrigerants, whether it also functions as a disposal center for contaminated refrigerant and whether it is run by a private company.


Price control

• The recycling center may control the prices as well as the distribution of the recycled refrigerant and gain a monopolistic position especially in small countries with few recycling centers. Running the recycling center as a refrigerant bank where the provider of recovered refrigerant has the right to purchase the similar quantity of recycled refrigerant at reduced prices may help. The price policy of the recycling center should be controlled e.g. through the government.

Monitoring and Reviewing

Performance indicators

In order to ensure the efficient functioning of the R&R system, the main performance indicators should be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis and corrective measures taken if necessary. These indicators are identical with the criteria used for the feasibility studies in Chapter 6:
• Environmental impact
• Cost-effectiveness
• Profitability.

Data collection

A local consultant should perform this task, in consultation with the NOU and in close co-operation with participating service workshops and recycling centers. Clear procedures need be established for the transfer of data between all involved stakeholders and the following data necessary for efficient monitoring of the R&R system should be provided to the NOU:
• Register of service workshops providing recovered refrigerant to the recycling centers or performing R&R themselves
• Register of the of R&R equipment in operation at the service workshops or the recycling centers
• The amount of refrigerant recovered, the number of operations and the reason for servicing
• The amount of refrigerant recycled by the service workshops or the recycling centers
• The amount of refrigerant recovered which is directly reused in the same appliance without recycling
• The amount of recycled refrigerant recharged to refrigeration appliances
• The estimation of the required resources (cost, time, labour) for R&R of refrigerant from different appliances and for individual workshops
• The potential for recovery and recycling of refrigerants
• The price levels of virgin, recovered and recycled refrigerants
• The quantity of imported of refrigerants.

Data reliability

The collection of reliable data represents a major problem in most R&R programmes. In centralized systems, the amounts of refrigerant received and recycled at the recycling center is usually available. It is already more difficult to keep track of the refrigerants, which are recovered and reused in the same appliance, without passing through the recycling center. This is also the case for decentralizes R&R systems, where individual service workshops perform both, recovery and recycling.

Indirect data

Indirect data may become available once the import of virgin CFC refrigerants is restricted, through the rate of retrofitting. The establishment of trade registers at importer/wholesaler level may also provide indicators of whether service companies are applying R&R practices.

4. Collecting Data

Base line survey

The first step in establishing an R&R system is to conduct a baseline survey of the existing refrigeration sector in order to evaluate the potential for CFC recovery and recycling and its economic feasibility.

The baseline survey should include the following activities, which are described in this chapter:
1. Analysis of the existing refrigeration sector
2. Analysis of the network for distributing refrigerants
3. Study of the trends, and future demands for refrigeration technology and CFC consumption
4. Estimates of the potential for recycling CFCs.

Analysis of the Existing Refrigeration Sector

Data to be collected

The following data needs to be collected to acquire an overview of the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector in the country:
• Numbers of refrigeration and air-conditioning units within each subsector (domestic, commercial and industrial refrigeration and airconditioning, chillers, mobile air-conditioning, etc.)
• Geographical distribution of these units
• Approximate age of the equipment
• CFC consumption within each sub-sector, indicating refrigerant types
• Inventory of service workshops, including their number, size, specialisation, number of employees and their skills levels, and companies maintaining their own refrigeration equipment
• Inventory of importers and wholesalers of refrigerants and equipment
• Inventory of R&R equipment already available in the country
• Projected lifetime of the R&R programme for CFC refrigerants – this will be limited by the phase-out schedules for CFCs under the Montreal Protocol. However, R&R may become increasingly important for other refrigerants, e.g. HCFCs and HFCs, which contribute to global warming.

Data sources

The starting points for the collection of data should be the Country Program and the RMP. Further data could be gathered from importers of refrigerants and equipment, and their customers – wholesalers and service workshops.

The following form sheets (Tables 1–3) should be used as templates for the collection of the basic data, and provide guidance on how to organise the data in a user-friendly manner. RMPs may contain similar form sheets.

Existing systems and their charge

Table 1 should be used to collect information on the number of refrigeration and air- conditioning units using CFC refrigerants. It also includes columns for data on the average and total refrigerant charge of the units. If exact data are not available, the procedures explained in Chapter 6 should be
used to investigate the feasibility for CFC recovery and recycling.

Refrigerant use for servicing


Table 2 should be used to collect information on the current consumption of CFC refrigerants for maintenance. The precise annual CFC loss in each sub-sector depends on the quality of the maintenance procedures. Within each sub-sector, the different types of CFCs should be specified.


Structure of refrigeration sub-sectors


Table 3 should be used to collect sector specific-data such as the size and type of the refrigeration workshops. Some service workshops may work in more than one sub-sector – this has to be taken into account when estimating the total number of companies.



Analysis of the network for distributing refrigerants


Data to be collected
In many cases, the existing distribution network for virgin refrigerants can also be used for the R&R system – e.g. to transport recovered refrigerant to the recycling centers. This is particularly important for centralised R&R systems, which rely heavily on transport services. For this reason, the structure of the existing distribution system should be investigated, including:

• Number of importers
• Intermediate dealers
• Amount of CFC refrigerants sold through the different wholesalers
• Distribution channels for CFC refrigerants
• Modes of distribution for CFC refrigerants, e.g. the packaging (type and size of cylinders, refillable or non-refillable), means of transport, etc.
• Availability of cylinders for re-distribution of recycled refrigerants.

This data is also needed to establish a mass balance for the total flow of refrigerants, and to identify the individual consumers of CFC refrigerants, in the country.

Analysis of trends and future demands

Data to be collected

Future demand for CFC refrigerants in the country can be estimated once the following data is known:
• Current trends in consumption, and stock (charge) of CFC refrigerants, in the various types of refrigeration equipment
• Ages of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment and expected rates of replacement
• Plans for retrofitting of equipment and possible schedules for banning imports of refrigeration equipment
• Trends in the development of new refrigeration technology worldwide
• Current levels of recovery and recycling of CFC refrigerants, amounts of CFC refrigerants being recovered and recycled and number of existing recycling machines.

Potential for R & R

Recovery and recycling of CFC refrigerants may be applied during:

• Servicing and repair of CFC units
• Retrofitting of CFC units for alternative refrigerants
• Decommissioning of CFC units.

Demand for refrigerants

Demand for CFC refrigerants arise sin the following cases:
• The initial charge of newly installed CFC units, including refrigerants for testing purposes (to be avoided in future)
• Recharging during servicing and repair of existing CFC units.

Table 4 should be used to estimate the future demand for virgin CFC refrigerants.

Estimation of the Potential for Refrigerant Recycling 


Table 5 can be used to estimate the potential amount of CFC refrigerant available for recovery and recycling. The average refrigerant charge for each sub-sector or equipment category has to be estimated.




Domestic refrigerators

The type and amount of CFCs used in domestic refrigerators differs from model to model, depending on the size and capacity of the refrigeration system. Refrigerators usually contain 0.1–0.25 kg of refrigerant.

Experience from France shows that more than 90% of the initial charge of yet unopened refrigerators can be recovered. However, Danish experience in the recovery of CFC refrigerant from old  refrigerators brought to central recycling centers shows that they tend to contain only about 30% of the initial charge – the remainder is lost mainly through leaks caused during transport to the center.

Commercial Units

When end-of-life refrigerators are disposed of in LVC countries, most of the refrigerant tends to be lost through leakage, or is effectively non-recyclable because of compressor burnout. LVC countries experience higher rates of compressor burnout because of their hot climates and unstable electrical supplies.

Several kinds of refrigeration equipment are used in the commercial sector, including hermetically sealed compressor units for individual display cases, and semi-hermetic and open compressors for centralized refrigeration of a series of display cases and cold rooms.

Hermetically sealed compressor cabinets contain a few kilograms of CFC-12 refrigerant, whereas centralised systems contain between 5–15 kg of refrigerant, depending on the size and number of cabinets connected to the system.
Larger systems, with several cabinets and/or storage rooms, contain as much as several hundred kilograms of CFC-12, HCFC-22 or R-502 (a blend of CFC-115 and HCFC-22) refrigerants.

Recommended charge ratios of refrigerant for commercial refrigeration are approximately 1.5 kg/kWref for evaporation temperatures between –15 and 0 oC, and 4 kg/kWref for temperatures between –40 and –35 oC.

When a system is opened for servicing its refrigerant content may range from zero to a full charge.


Usually, the actual charge will be less than the initial charge because of system leakage – which is the most common cause for the servicing. Refrigerant loss noticeably reduces the cooling performance of the equipment, and the owners usually react quickly to service the appliance. Most of the remaining refrigerant can therefore be recovered.

Large commercial and industrial units

This sub-sector is very diversified, including refrigeration and air-conditioning units as well as chillers. The refrigerant type and charge varies accordingly.

Some units use CFC-12, HCFC-22 or R-502, while others, such as chillers, use CFC-11. The refrigerant content varies from several hundred kilograms to over 1 tonne, with an average of about 400 kg.

For chillers, the recommended charge ratio is between 0.25–0.4 kg/kWref, while that for special refrigeration plants may be as high as 8 kg/kWref.
This sub-sector includes air-conditioning systems both for cars, buses, trucks and trains.

Mobile air-conditioning (MAC)

Until recently, CFC-12 was used in cars and some other vehicles. The initial refrigerant charge in cars was 0.65–1.5 kg of CFC-12. North American cars contained more than 1 kg of CFC-12, though European and Japanese cars contained less. Although almost all car manufacturers have now switched to HFC-134a as the refrigerant, many older cars still require servicing with CFC-12, which makes recycling relevant.

The average initial charge for buses and trains is several kilograms of refrigerant.

5. Designing R&R Systems

This chapter describes the technical components of the different types of R&R systems for CFC refrigerants. There are two basic designs, decentralized and centralized systems. In certain cases, a combination of both types – a semi-centralized system – may be appropriate, depending on the structure of the existing refrigeration systems.

Decentralized R&R systems

Design and logistics

In decentralized R&R systems, the participating service workshops are equipped with both, recovery and recycling units. R&R is either performed locally at the customer's premises, using mobile R&R equipment, or at the service workshop. The recycled refrigerant is usually used to recharge the same refrigeration unit from which it was recovered. The recycling process is controlled by the local workshop (Figure 2).


Conditions for successful operation

The operation of decentralized R&R systems has significant advantages compared with centralized systems because the recycled refrigerant can directly be reused by the service workshop. Thus the transport logistics are reduced and no co-ordination with other service workshops is needed as
long as the workshop is able to use all recycled refrigerant itself. However, the successful operation of a decentralized system requires that:
• the individual service workshops have sufficiently skilled technicians and administrative personnel
• the recycling potential is sufficiently high, which is usually the case for mobile air-conditioning units and larger commercial or industrial plants.
• either the individual workshops have sufficient financial resources to purchase the recycling equipment or it is funded or subsidised through the Government or the Multilateral Fund.
• the individual service workshops must have access to analytical tools, which are necessary to identify recovered refrigerant before the recycling takes place. The workshop has to ensure the quality of the recycled refrigerant and is liable for damage resulting from refrigerant contamination.
• the individual service workshops have access to vehicles for transportation of the recovered refrigerant to the service workshop for recycling or for transportation of the recycling machine to the
customer's premises.
• R&R must be profitable for the individual workshop.

Centralized R&R systems

Design and logistics


In centralized R&R systems, the participating service workshops are equipped with recovery machines only, and the recovered refrigerant is recycled in a recycling center. In some cases, the recycling center can also be equipped with a reclaim station. The recycling center controls the recycling process
(Figure 2).

The recycling center can return the recycled refrigerant to the workshop, which provided it and charge a recycling fee, where the workshop is able to reuse the recycled refrigerant. Alternatively, the recycling center can function as a refrigerant bank, buying recovered and selling recycled CFC
refrigerants. If the recycled refrigerant is to be used for other refrigeration systems, its quality must of course be strictly controlled.

Conditions for successful operation

However, experience shows that the successful operation of centralized R&R systems is more difficult because of the increased logistics between the service workshops and the recycling center, because of the smaller R&R potential in the domestic sector and because of the increased need for coordination between workshops and recycling centers. The successful operation of centralized R&R systems requires that:
• the individual service workshops have sufficiently skilled technicians and administrative personnel
• the potential for refrigerant recovery is sufficient for the individual service workshop, which is more difficult for companies servicing domestic and small commercial appliances
• the number of small service companies is sufficient to ensure a minimum R&R potential for the recycling center
• Short distances between the service companies and the recycling center in order to limit the necessary logistics
• Collective or individual transport available to transport the recovered refrigerant to the recycling center and to return it once recycled
• each recycling center must be equipped with a refrigerant analyser since it can not rely on the type of refrigerant contained in a recovery cylinder. The center is liable for the quality of the recycled refrigerant and has therefore to control the incoming refrigerants.
• recovery must be profitable for the individual service workshop and the recycling must be profitable for the recycling center.

Lessons learned: close monitoring

Lessons learned from recent R&R programmes show that the operation of centralised R&R system may fail if some of the above aspects are not properly taken into account. Therefore it is important to closely monitor the operational phase of the system and to introduce corrective measures if necessary. Further aspects, which should be taken into account, were already discussed in Chapter 3.

Conditions for successful operation

Fig. 2 : Three different ways to organize a CFC Refrigerant R&R System

Technical Components of R&R Systems

The type and quantity of R&R equipment necessary to operate R&R systems depends on the design and size of the system and the type of refrigeration equipment to be serviced.

Typically, R&R systems require the following types of equipment:
Recovery machines

Recovery machines are used to recover refrigerant from refrigeration or air-conditioning systems to be serviced or decommissioned. The recovered refrigerant is pumped into a cylinder for storage.

Recovery does not necessarily include filtering. However, liquid refrigerant is often recovered through a buffer cylinder, which is placed before the recovery machine. This cylinder functions as an oil separator that traps particles and acid.

Some recovery machines are, or can be, equipped with a filter to protect the compressor, as well as additional filter modules for moisture, particles, etc., in order to fulfil the basic recycling function. Such upgraded recovery machines may improve the quality of the recovered refrigerant before recharging to the same refrigeration system. However, they are not certified, and the refrigerant quality cannot be guaranteed.

Recovery machines are usually portable, their weight is approximately 20 kg and their price may range from US$ 500–1500, depending on the type and the number of machines purchased.

Recycling machines

Recycling machines clean the recovered refrigerant to a given standard – they are usually certified. The recycled refrigerant is pumped into a refillable cylinder. Some recycling machines are also equipped to recharge the recycled refrigerant back into the serviced refrigeration system.

The cleaning system usually involves an evaporation process, and the refrigerant is passed through a separation chamber, filters and dryers.

Recycling machines weigh about 100 kg and are normally equipped with wheels. Prices range from US$ 2000–5000. Purchasing a recycling machine will avoid costs e.g. for separate recovery machines, cylinders and charging equipment.

The use of refrigerant handling equipment has increased during the last decade, accompanied by the intensive development of new and more cost-efficient models. The characteristics and prices of such equipment should be carefully compared.

Reclaim stations

Reclaim stations are stationary plants, normally used to upgrade contaminated or mixed refrigerant to international quality standards for virgin refrigerants (ARI 700-93). These standards require strict quality control and access to advanced chemical analysis devices such as a gas chromatograph.


However, recycling machines may also be able to clean refrigerant, which is not heavily contaminated to similar quality standards.

The price of a reclaim station ranges from US$ 25,000–50,000. More complex reclaim stations may cost as much as US$ 150,000. A gas chromatograph may cost up to US$100,000. Because of the high cost, reclaim stations are not cost-efficient for LVC countries.

Cylinders are necessary in all types of R&R systems for the recovery, storage, transport and redistribution of refrigerant. Only refillable cylinders should be used, given that disposable cylinders – often used for distribution of virgin refrigerants – are not strong enough to withstand the filling process.

Cylinders are available in different sizes, 30lb, 50lb, 100lb, 200lb and 1000lb. Smaller workshops with portable recovery machines normally use 30lb or 50lb cylinders. For recycling centers, 100lb or 200lb cylinders are usually adequate. Recovery cylinders should have separate valves for vapour
and liquid refrigerant, and be equipped with an over-fill protection (OFP) device. The price for 30lb and 50lb cylinders is approximately US$ 100 and for 100lb cylinders US$ 250.

The mixing of different refrigerants should be avoided, as it is not possible to separate mixtures of refrigerants using the equipment described above.


This means that the workshops have to be equipped with separate cylinders for the different kinds of recycled refrigerants (CFC-11, CFC-12 and R-502) and rejected refrigerants.

As part of the interim disposal strategy for contaminated and mixed refrigerants, recent R&R programmes provided 1000lb cylinders, allowing storage of the refrigerant until final destruction.

When servicing small refrigeration units such as refrigerators, a specially designed plastic bag can be used to recover and to store the refrigerant during transport from the site to the locations of the recycling machine.

The price for a refrigerant bag is approximately US$ 20.

Leak detectors

Electronic leak detectors indicate the presence of specific molecules containing chlorine or fluorine atoms. This should happen before the recovery of the refrigerant and the repair of the system. Leak detectors cost between US$ 50–300.

Test kit (refrigerant identifier)

This equipment identifies the type of recovered refrigerant to be recycled and indicates if refrigerants have been mixed together. Recycling centers,  which receive recovered refrigerants from a variety of workshops, require the device.

Different types of hand tools and accessories are needed for recovery and recycling operations, including hoses, valves, gauge manifolds, micron gauges, hollow punches, etc.

Other pieces of equipment used for refrigerant recovery and recycling are weighing scales and filters for the recycling machines.

Local assembly of R&R equipment


Some refrigeration service workshops are already equipped with basic tools for handling refrigerants, such as vacuum pumps, refrigerant cylinders, weighing scales and hand tools. The cost for of R&R machines may be significantly reduced through local assembly.


Such locally assembled equipment may upgrade the quality of the recovered refrigerant.
In larger countries such as India, the relevant stakeholders and the Government met and decided to develop indigenous charging kits and recovery machines since most service technicians in India cannot afford imported equipment. In the long term, India also plans to develop R&R units, but some research needs to be done concerning the absorption of acid and moisture and the life of the cartridge.

However, unless the R&R equipment is tested and certified, there is no guarantee that the recycled refrigerant complies with established quality standards. Therefore, the recycled refrigerant should only be used to recharge the same appliance from which it was recovered.


UNEP DTIE (1999): United Nations Environment Programme's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics