EPA Enforcement Activity Regarding Refrigerant Recovery from Appliances

ISRI has recently become aware of significant U.S. EPA enforcement activity at scrap recycling operations located in Ohio, all centered around questions of compliance with EPA’s long standing regulations governing refrigerant recovery from appliances. We want to make all ISRI members aware of this activity because it is possible that enforcement may spread beyond Region V, and therefore we want to help members to be prepared. Based on limited information, enforcement follow-up has included penalties in the neighborhood of $500,000. All members should review ISRI’s compliance guidelines (members only) against their current appliance recycling procedures and make any necessary changes to ensure compliance with the regulations.

The regulations applicable to appliance recycling are based on Title VI of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and are found at 40 CFR Part 82, Subpart F, especially 40 CFR §82.155, “Safe Disposal of Appliances.” Small appliances, motor vehicle air conditioners (MVACs), and MVAC-like devices (e.g., construction equipment with AC units) are subject to these regulations once in the recycling stream (other Part 82 regulations apply to appliance maintenance, repair, and servicing). Because of historical interpretation and enforcement issues, ISRI identified these Subpart F regulations as a top priority for regulatory reform in comments submitted to EPA in 2017.

This notice comes soon after recent enforcement follow-up to inspection and enforcement activities reported last year. In January 2020, ISRI met with EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) staff from Headquarters (in-person) and EPA Region 5 staff (remote). OECA HQ staff identified 40 CFR §82.155, “Safe Disposal of Appliances”, as part of its core enforcement program, with a particular emphasis on shredder facilities. OECA Region 5 noted its new Compliance Assurance Program to create a better relationship with recyclers and later provided a redacted March 2019 sample letter. Such letters would list compliance concerns identified after a visit and, while not enforcement actions, warned that failure to address compliance concerns could result in initiation of enforcement action. 

As outlined in this article but detailed in ISRI’s guidelines, compliance with EPA’s “safe disposal of appliances” regulations requires that all recyclers that accept small appliances, MVACs, or MVAC-like appliances for recycling must either:

Option 1: Properly recover any remaining refrigerant or 
Option 2: Verify with a signed statement or a contract that refrigerant was properly recovered prior to delivery. A recycler may use a contract for regular suppliers or collect a statement from suppliers for each delivery. Statements are required for occasional suppliers (e.g., peddlers). ISRI’s Compliance guidance has sample statements and contract language members are free to use. 

Under Option 2 recyclers must also notify suppliers that refrigerant must be properly recovered. Notification may consist of “signs, letters to suppliers, or other equivalent means”. It is a violation “to accept a signed statement or contract if the person receiving the statement or contract knew or had reason to know that the signed statement or contract is false.” All compliance-related documents and records must be retained for at least three years. These requirements are further detailed in ISRI’s appliance recycling guidelines Members Only

Have Questions?

David L. Wagger, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist
Director of Environmental Management
(202) 662-8533