The National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 39 of 2004: Regulations Regarding the Phasing-out and Management of Ozone-Depleting Substances, GN 351, GG 37621 of 8 May 2014  (the “Regulations”), published by the Department of Environmental Affairs, came into effect on 8 May 2014. The Regulations aim at regulating the management and phasing out of ozone depleting substances in South Africa.

Amongst other requirements, the Regulations prohibit the use of refrigerants containing hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC-22), in the construction, assembly or installation of any new refrigeration or air-conditioning system or equipment from 1 January 2015.

South Africa’s international obligation

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the “Protocol”) is an international environmental treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of substances that are responsible for ozone depletion. The Protocol began the worldwide phase-out of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). In regard to time frames for compliance, the Protocol differentiates between developed and developing countries.

South Africa is defined as a developing country and therefore the time frames for compliance differ from that of a developed country, which have already implemented phasing-out requirements.

South Africa has given effect to its commitment as a signatory to the Protocol, by publishing the Regulations. 

Industries obligation to comply with South Africa’s time frames

Most industries in South Africa use a refrigerant called HCFC-22. As stated above, Regulation 5 of the Regulations provides a phase-out schedule on the importation and use of HCFCs, HCFC-141b and equipment charged with HCFC 22 as of 1 January 2015, until a total ban in 2030.

This will have an impact on industries that make use of such products and equipment, as the production and as such the availability of HCFC-22 will decrease. This will force companies to either use substitutes for HCFC-22, recycled HCFCs, or change their air-conditioning, refrigeration, or heat pump systems.

Alternative options

In terms of an article titled R-22 refrigerant phase-out and its repercussions, published by Urban Earth, a company that wants to start complying with the Regulations, should consider the following, before deciding on the best option of phasing-out its use of HCFC-22:

  • The more reliance a company has on equipment containing HCFC-22, the higher the costs of refilling will become as the phasing-out commences.
  • The more leakages there are in equipment containing HCFC-22, the more damage is caused to the environment.
  • Whether the company has the money to invest in cleaner equipment before the older ones containing HCFC-22 are phased-out.
  • Whether the company aims at being more environmentally friendly.
  • Whether the company is a subsidiary of a European company that will start requiring the discontinuation of HCFC-22 in its equipment.

It is advised that a company using equipment containing HCFC-22 implement a phasing-out plan as soon as possible. The following options are available:

  • Buy new equipment that uses alternatives to HCFC-22. The US Environmental Protection Agency has published an article on what the HCFC-22 phase-out plan means for consumers. Although this is directed at users in the United States of America, it does provide guidance on alternatives to HCFC-22 in household and light commercial air conditioning.
  • Retrofit old equipment, allowing you to remove HCFC-22 from the unit, and use HCFC-22 alternatives in the same equipment.
  • Use the same equipment, however, due to the phasing-out plan, it will become more difficult to obtain HCFC-22 in South Africa. A company will have to recycle and purify used HCFC-22, which may be an expensive activity.