Ozone depleting substances are man-made gases that destroy ozone once they reach the ozone layer. The ozone layer sits in the upper atmosphere and reduces the amount of harmful ultra violet radiation that reaches Earth from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation can have detrimental effects on both humans and the environment. For instance inducing skin cancer and cataracts, distorting plant growth and damaging the marine environment.
Ozone depleting substances include:
- chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
- hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
- hydrobromoflurocarbons (HBFCs)
- methyl bromide
- carbon tetrachloride
- methyl chloroform.
They have been used as:
- refrigerants in commercial, home and vehicle air conditioners and refrigerators
- foam blowing agents
- components in electrical equipment
- industrial solvents
- solvents for cleaning (including dry cleaning)
- aerosol spray propellants
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were widely used as refrigerants until the 1980s when it was confirmed that they were the main source of harm to the ozone layer. They are also considered greenhouse gases that cause climate change. CFCs have not been imported into New Zealand since 1996. However there are still CFCs left in older industrial air conditioning and refrigeration systems, car air conditioning systems and domestic refrigerators.
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) have been used as a substitute for CFCs. They do less damage to the ozone layer than CFCs. New Zealand phased out imports of HCFCs in 2015.
Halons are halocarbon gases that were originally developed for use in fire extinguishers. Production and consumption of halons ended in 1994 in developed countries including New Zealand. Halons produced before 1994 and recycled halons are now the only sources of supply in New Zealand.
The Fire Protection Association of New Zealand undertook a halon responsible disposal project.
Find out more on the Fire Protection Association of New Zealand website.
Methyl bromide is an ozone depleting substance and toxic to humans. The use of methyl bromide in New Zealand is only permitted for quarantine and pre-shipment purposes.
Find out more about Methyl bromide.
It is illegal to dispose of ozone depleting substances by releasing them into the atmosphere. Unwanted ozone depleting substances should be collected for destruction.
The Environmental Protection Authority is responsible for issuing permits to import or export ozone depleting substances.
Hazardous aspects of ozone depleting substances are controlled by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.
Controls on ozone-depleting substances [Environmental Protection Authority website]
Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 [New Zealand Legislation website].
New Zealand is a signatory to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer which sets targets for reducing the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances. New Zealand’s commitments under the protocol are contained in the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996 and the Ozone Layer Protection Regulations 1996 [New Zealand Legislation website].
New Zealand does not manufacture any of the substances controlled under the protocol.
In accordance with the protocol, imports of non-essential halons were phased out by 1994, and of CFCs, other fully halogenated CFCs, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform and HBFCs by 1996.
The import of methyl bromide for non-quarantine and pre-shipment purposes ended in 2007.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been used since the early 1990s as an alternative to CFCs and HCFCs. HFCs do not contribute to ozone depletion, but they are potent greenhouse gases.
In 2016, New Zealand adopted the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs worldwide. New Zealand has completed the domestic processes required to meet the Amendment’s obligations, and will ratify it on 3 October 2019 so it enters into force on 1 January 2020.
For more information see Hydrofluorocarbons phase-down.