Release of Fluorocarbons from Insulation Foam in Home Appliances during Shredding
It is a current practice that refrigerators and freezers in many countries are shredded after the end of useful lives. The shredder residue is deposited in landfills. During the shredding process a significant fraction of blowing agent (BA) in the insulation foam may be released into the atmosphere. The objective of this study is to determine the fraction of BA released from foam during shredding, by comparing the BA content in insulation foam of refrigerator units before shredding with the BA content of shredded foam. All foam samples analyzed were manufactured with trichlorofluoromethane [CFC-11 (CCl3F)] as BA. The average content of BA in the insulation foam from eight U.S. refrigerator units manufactured before 1993 was found to be 14.9% +/- 3.3% w/w. Several refrigerator units also identified as being manufactured before 1993 were stockpiled and shredded at three shredder facilities, of which one was operated in both wet and dry modes. The selected shredder facilities represent typical American facilities for shredding automobiles, refrigerators, freezers, and other iron containing waste products. Shredded material was collected and separated on location into four particle size categories: more than 32 mm, 16-32 mm, 8-16 mm, and 0-8 mm. Adjusting for sample purity, it was found that the majority (>81%) of the foam mass was shredded into particles larger than 16 mm. The smallest size fraction of foam (0-8 mm) was found to contain significantly less BA than the larger size categories, showing that up to 68% +/- 4% of the BA is released from these fine particles during the shredding process. Because only a minor fraction of the foam is shredded into particles smaller than 8 mm, this has a minor impact on the end result when calculating the total BA release from the shredding process. Comparing BA content in shredded samples from the three shredder facilities with the measured average BA content of the eight refrigerator units, it was found that on average 24.2% +/- 7.5% of the initial BA content is released during the shredding process.
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