Ozone Depleting Substance To Be Destroyed

  • Simon Upton

The ozone layer will benefit from a decision by the New Zealand government to export ozone depleting halons for destruction offshore.

The Hon Simon Upton, in his capacity as both the Minister for the Environment and of State Services announced today that the Government was putting its money where its mouth is by shipping 6.5 metric tonnes of halon to Australia for destruction at the only dedicated halon destruction facility in the southern hemisphere.

"The shipment of the highly ozone depleting halons for destruction was a significant move to protect the ozone layer," Mr Upton said.

Halons are the most ozone depleting substances in the world today. They were once commonly used as fire extinguishers. They can be up to 16 times more destructive than the now banned CFCs. Because they were so ozone depleting, their importation was banned in this country in 1990. (A full four years before the Montreal Protocol required.)

The State Services Commission has organised the first shipment of halons to the Australian National Halon Bank in Melbourne. The halons originated from the Wanganui Computer and the government believes that is setting an example that should be followed by others.

Mr Upton said, "the project reinforces the two countries' trans-Tasman commitment to protecting the environment and provides a practical example of their co-operation."

"In taking such a lead role, the New Zealand Government is demonstrating to the corporate and small business sectors of New Zealand, as well as private owners of halon fire equipment, the responsible way to dispose of this aggressive ozone depleting substance," said Mr Upton.

As building owners de-commission their old halon fire extinguishing systems, there is an increasing stockpile of unwanted but still highly dangerous halons that require destruction

Mr Upton urged businesses, organisations or individuals wishing to dispose of portable halon fire extinguishers (normally yellow or labelled BCF) and halon flood system cylinders correctly, to contact Halon Recycling N.Z Ltd in Auckland or the Ministry for the Environment in Wellington for advice on their collection and safe disposal.

Halon Recycling N.Z has been established by the New Zealand Fire Protection Association to undertake a national halon collection and disposal service in New Zealand. They are the agents for DASCEM Holding Pty Ltd, managers of the Australian National Halon Bank.

"The shipment of halons by the State Services Commission represents the first major import to Australia for destruction by DASCEM. It is an important step in the development of a key regional role for the Australian National halon Bank facility in global ozone protection" said Mr Garry Cranny, Director of the facility who is in Wellington to organise the shipment.


Note to editors

The halon is currently in storage at the MAINFREIGHT Depot, 9-23 Western Hutt Road, Petone, pending shipment to Australia on Thursday 3 September 1998. Ph (04) 589 7127

A 1994 study indicated that because of the very high ozone depleting potentials (ODP) of the halons, destruction of existing stocks of halons was the second most important action that could still be taken to protect the ozone layer from further destruction. The most important action was to phase out methyl bromide, a soil fumigant. A phase-out schedule for methyl bromide was agreed in New Zealand at the end of 1997.

Although the New Zealand Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996 prohibited the import of halons in 1990, neither it, nor the Montreal Protocol currently require them to be decommissioned by any specific date. However, because halons are kept in pressure vessels, which require regular servicing, many companies are now seeking to voluntarily decommission their systems and replace them with non-ozone depleting alternatives, rather than face the costs of servicing. The move by the New Zealand Fire Protection Association to establish a commercial halon collection and destruction programme is therefore significant. It provides, for the first time, a safe method of destroying the halons.