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Context and challenges

A refrigerant is a chemical compound which can be easily liquefied and in which the latent heat of vaporisation is used to produce cold.

Discovered in the 1930s, CFCs developed rapidly as refrigerants to create cold for industrial and commercial applications. Their non toxicity and flammability gave them an edge over ammonia. However, chlorine molecules released into the atmosphere damage the stratospheric ozone layer, which is why the UN decided in the 1980s to progressively ban their use.

The 1989 Montreal protocol was signed by all industrialised countries and stipulates the complete cessation of any CFC production and use. These molecules have been replaced by HCFCs (which have similar properties for the ozone layer and have therefore been regulated in the same manner), HFCs (with strong global warming potential), ammonia, CO2 or other fluorinated compounds (HFOs).

The high impact of HFCs on climate change (in 2012, HFCs represent - in CO2 equivalent - 2 to 3% of EU emissions, growing very quickly - +350% since1990) led the European Union to take measures for emissions prevention, reduction of uses by 2030 and progressive interdiction of uses when alternatives are available. Extension, at international level, of these measures, are being discussed.

  • CFC : Chlorofluorocarbon (freon R11)
  • HCFC : Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (freon R134a, R407c…)
  • HFC : Hydrofluorocarbon (R23, R32, R404a...)
  • HFO : Hydrofluoroolefin (HFO 1234yf, 1234ze...)


Ozone-depleting substances

Fluorinated greenhouse gases

Fluid waste management

2Other dedicated disposal processes2 WEEE: Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

ELV: End-of-Life Vehicles Packaging Tyres Batteries and accumulators