London – Polyurethane formulations containing CFC-11 are being widely supplied illegally in China, according to an NGO.
Environmental Investigation Agency, an NGO based in London, made the allegations after it contacted companies in China that advertised polyurethane systems for rigid PU foam on the internet or commerce sites in June this year.
The EIA contacted 25 systems houses or foam producing companies and 21 responded. Of that 21, 18 companies in 10 provinces 'confirmed the use of CFC-11 in China's PU foam insulation sector,' said EIA.
The main application areas are building panels and spray foam.
The charity was prompted to investigate the area following a report in Nature, a scientific journal, that there is a growing concentration of CFC-11 in the atmosphere in East Asia.
According to the EIA report Chinese traders believe that 'up to 70% of domestic blowing agent used CFC-11'. Another suggested that it once mixed with polyol, it 'could be exported without a license.'
This raises the possibility that firms operating in other countries which signed the Montreal Protocol could be inadvertently using CFC-11 in their formulations.
The illegal trade seems to thrive because of price. One respondent said that systems from international suppliers based on compliant blowing agents were not cheap enough. 'If you go with their environmentally friendly blowing agent, you'd have to buy other ingredients from them too… Very different from what you can get from us price-wise.'
The EIA suggests the Chinese government should crackdown on the illegal activities in a 'nation-wide, intelligence-led investigation into the sector'.
This crackdown should 'result in seizures, arrests and prosecution. China should also 'pass policies that force legal responsibility down the supply chain to construction projects,' EIA said.
The China Plastics Processing Industry Association has issued a statement. This pledges it to 'support the relevant national departments to crack down on the production, sale and use of illegal CFCs and cooperate with… law enforcement operations.'
Using CFCs as blowing agents in polyurethane foam has been illegal in China since 1 January 2008.
The UK's Department of Environment Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), is responsible for the Montreal Protocol in the country. It said that in the UK infringing the ban is a criminal offence. Offenders face the possibility of an unlimited fine, which would be decided in court.
A DEFRA spokesman said:' we are calling on all countries to ensure strong enforcement is in place to tackle the illegal use of ozone-damaging chemicals.'