Illegal CFC-11 production: response to China embassy letter

China has identified illegal use and production of CFC-11 in a series of actions undertaken in response to our report Blowing It, which recently revealed that companies making polyurethane foams in China continued to use the banned ozone depleting substance. 

CFCs in China

In a letter to the Guardian, which reported on our findings, a spokesperson from the Chinese embassy stated that an investigation of the 19 PU foam enterprises had been undertaken. Although no CFC use was found in 12 enterprises, CFC-11 was detected in one enterprise and six remain under further investigation. In addition, authorities uncovered two enterprises producing CFC-11 and CFC-12. According to the letter, “The seized CFCs and raw materials have been confiscated and sealed up, and the local police have filed charges against the enterprises and are hunting down the suspects in the cases”.

We welcome the assurance of the Chinese authorities that they are taking action and the details of their initial findings which corroborate our findings that CFC-11 is being illegally used as a foam blowing agent and is being illegal produced in China. We are seeking more details about the scale and nature of the actions taken and the penalties being applied to those enterprises discovered to be illegally using or producing CFC-11. To date, penalties for the illegal use of CFC-11 have clearly not been sufficient to deter widespread illegal use of this hugely damaging substance.

We would like to see China undertake a comprehensive analysis of the drivers of the illegal CFC-use, so that steps can be taken to address what appears to be primarily economic incentives behind the trade. In this respect we welcome the announcement of the China Plastics Processing Industry Association (CPPIA) which calls for their members to undertake a number of measures aimed at stopping the use of CFC-11 as a blowing agent.

We would also like to see further action to investigate the potential international trade of CFC-11 within the polyols used to make PU foams. China exports large quantities of pre-blended polyols to other Parties to the Montreal Protocol and there is very little scrutiny of the trade.

The issue of a persistent rise in CFC-11 emissions was taken extremely seriously at the recent Montreal Protocol Open-Ended Working Group meeting in Vienna with unprecedented coordination between Parties to bring about a swift and appropriate response. We will continue to monitor and investigate this alarming environmental crime, and advocate a more comprehensive approach to enforcement and compliance with of all the Montreal Protocol’s obligations.