Vehicle wreckers in Spain have been accused of emitting in excess of 76,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents by not properly disposing of refrigerant.
The emissions, created by the negligent or illegal venting of air-conditioning systems, are reputed to be equivalent to driving a single car some 800 million km.
The Spanish Central Prosecutor’s Office for Environmental Crime drew attention to the issue after monitoring authorised disposal sites in Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country.
In accordance with the EU legal framework, the sites should safely dispose of refrigerants and provide documentation to testify that the proper processes have been carried out; instead, according to reports, no refrigerant was being recovered.
The Spanish Civil Guard, in collaboration with Europol, targeted 30 companies that were involved in improper disposal and emitting considerable amounts of refrigerant.
As a result of the Civil Guard operation, a total of 68 individuals were arrested.
Spain is not alone in having issues with scrap vehicles, however. A study carried out by the Australian Department of the Environment in 2013 stated that scrap vehicles were estimated to contain 187 tonnes of refrigerant, estimated to be equivalent to 468,000 tonnes of CO2.
Ominously, only 10 per cent was expected to be properly recovered – as many wreckers, or individuals dismantling vehicles for parts, were found to be dumping refrigerant to atmosphere.
Such actions were not necessarily intentional, and perpetrators were not always aware of environmental impacts.
Nevertheless, until regulations tighten and enforcement increases, improper and illegal venting of refrigerant will continue.