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THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUING TO CAREFULLY MANAGE THE WORLD'S EXISTING HALON RESOURCES:
Halons are highly effective fire and explosion suppression agents that have been used for special hazard fire protection since the 1960s. Halons are also potent ozone-depleting substances whose production for fire protection uses was phased out worldwide in 2010 under the Montreal Protocol.
Despite the phase-out of production, halons continue to be needed in a number of important applications where alternatives are not yet available including military, oil and gas, and commercial aviation. A recent Montreal Protocol report estimates that halons will be needed in commercial aviation for another 40 to 50 years and concludes that if civil aviation does not stop producing new aircraft using Halon 1301, they are already or soon will be producing aircraft that cannot be sustained over their economic lifetimes with existing supplies of recycled Halon 1301.
For these reasons, it is critical that the world’s existing halon resources be carefully managed. Every pound of halon that is prevented from being unnecessarily emitted or destroyed is a pound of halon that may not need to be manufactured sometime in the future. Therefore, the dissemination of accurate information about halon management is critical for protecting the environment while protecting valuable assets that cannot as yet be protected by other means.
Halons are low-toxicity, chemically stable compounds that have been used for fire and explosion protection for more than 50 years. Halons have proven to be extremely effective fire suppressants that are clean (leave no residue) and, in the case of Halon 1301, can be used safely to protect occupied spaces.
Below is a list of the different types of halons and applications where they might have been used.
Halon 1301 (bromotrifluoromethane) is a gaseous agent used mainly in total flooding systems. Historically, the largest single user of Halon 1301 has been the electronics industry. The protection of vital electronics facilities such as computer and telecommunications rooms was estimated to account for 65% of Halon 1301 use. Halon 1301 is also used extensively for military applications, ships, oil production, electric power generation, and on all commercial passenger aircraft.
Halon 1211 (bromochlorodifluoromethane) is a liquid streaming agent used mainly in portable fire extinguishers. Halon 1211 extinguishers are used for military applications, in certain industrial and electronic facilities, at airports, and on commercial passenger aircraft.
Halon 2402 (dibromotetrafluoroethane) is a gaseous agent used mostly in total flooding systems manufactured in Russia. Halon 2402 is used for military applications, ships, oil production, electric power generation, and on commercial passenger aircraft.
Halon Recycling and Banking
HALON RECYCLING AND BANKING
The recovery and recycling of the existing halons is key to minimizing unnecessary emissions and provides an environmentally sound pathway for halons to be directed to important uses until environmentally acceptable alternatives are developed.
A significant percentage of the world’s halon needs are supplied by a small number of halon recyclers who search the global community in an effort to identify “used” halon. Halon recyclers are responsible for transporting the decommissioned halon systems to their factories; sampling and testing the halon for any impurities; consolidating the halon into larger storage cylinders; recycling the halon through equipment designed to remove impurities and returning the halon to the appropriate specification; re-sampling the finished product to determine if it meets specification; and, finally, shipping the recycled halon to the customer. The process of testing and certifying halon quality is of great importance to halon users, and all halon users are urged to make certain that the substance they are purchasing meets the specification required for their use.
Used halons become available in most cases when a fire suppression system or extinguisher is decommissioned because the hazard it is protecting, such as a computer room, telecommunications facility, ship, or aircraft, is no longer active. Therefore the supply of recycled halons is mostly based on the rate at which halon systems and extinguishers are decommissioned from service.
The concept of “halon banking” is now a commonly used term. There is now general acceptance to a definition that a “halon bank” represents the total available amount of halon that is presently located in existing equipment, being the installed base, in addition to the halon already reclaimed from decommissioning activities and held in storage pending other future disposal options. A halon bank, therefore, is not necessarily a physical bank but can be a managed inventory.
ELIMINATING BARRIERS TO INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN RECYCLED HALONS:
Decision IV/26: International Recycled Halon Bank Management outlined the goals of the Montreal Protocol to encourage recovery, recycling, and reclamation of halons in order to meet the needs of all countries. It set the stage for the development of technical standards and halon bank management strategies and called for an investigation of possible legal and institutional barriers to the international trade in recycled halons. The importance of the unencumbered movement internationally of recycled halons in order to avoid regional unbalances in supply was reiterated recently in Decision XXVI/7: Availability of Halons. It requests Parties to reassess national import/export restrictions on halons and asks ozone officers to liaise with their civil aviation authorities regarding the recovery of halons to meet aviation needs.
RECYCLED HALONS ARE NOT HAZARDOUS WASTE:
Concerning transboundary movements of Ozone Depleting Substance (ODS) wastes, under the Basel Convention, chlorofluorocarbons and halons are not contained in Annex VIII (list of hazardous wastes) and there are no technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of or containing ODS. As a consequence, the Parties to the Montreal Protocol decided in Decision VII/31: Status of recycled CFCs and Halons under the Basel Convention, that the international transfers of controlled substances of the Montreal Protocol, which are recovered but not purified to usable purity specifications prescribed by appropriate international and/or national organizations, including International Standards Organization (ISO), should only occur if the recipient country has recycling facilities that can process the received controlled substances to these specifications or has destruction facilities incorporating technologies approved for that purpose.
HALONS OF ALL TYPES ARE HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, NOT HAZARDOUS WASTE:
Hazardous materials are materials used in various industrial processes that are usually purchased from suppliers. They must be handled in a particular way for life safety. Hazardous wastes are usually industrial byproducts that must be, by law, disposed of in a clearly defined manner. Halons, since they are valuable for critical uses where alternatives are not available, and safe if handled in a safe manner, are not hazardous wastes but rather hazardous materials. They simply require that well-established, proven methods for handling and transportation be employed. Confusion on this point in some countries has led to environmental harm from excess emissions of halons and needless destruction of halons.
HALON RECYCLING CORPORATION:
The Halon Recycling Corporation (HRC) is a voluntary, non-profit trade association formed by concerned halon users and the fire protection industry to support the goals of the Montreal Protocol. HRC acts as a facilitating organization for the recycling of halons and is the main liaison for the fire protection industry with the US government on halon-related issues. HRC also represents the interests of halon recyclers and users on environmental and regulatory issues. HRC has been involved in the management of existing halon resources for almost 25 years through its work with the US EPA, UNEP, HTOC, FAA, ICAO and others.
HRC hosted a meeting of National Halon Bank Managers in 1995 that was sponsored by the UNEP IE OzonAction Programme. The meeting was organized to assist countries with understanding and establishing halon banks and was attended by a diverse group of fire protection experts from around the world. As more than 20 years have passed since that meeting, HRC believes it would be extremely useful to reconnect with national halon bank managers to assess the status of halon recycling and banking in their countries.
QUESTIONS FOR NATIONAL OZONE FOCAL POINTS AND HALON BANK MANAGERS/RECYCLERS:
Do you have a National Halon Bank Manager or some other entity, either public or private that serves as a contact point for halon recycling in your country?
If yes, can you please provide us with contact information for these person(s) or organization(s)?
Do you have any laws or regulations that control or restrict the use, import or export of halons?
If yes, who would be the main contact point in your government to obtain information on these laws and regulations?
Who within your country is responsible for approving the import and export of halons?
Please send responses, preferably by email to:
Halon Recycling Corporation (HRC)
1001 19th Street North
Arlington, VA 20169