The Alliance For A Clean Environment
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Summary of Alternatives
A Greenpeace Report

The world has limited resources, and as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) 1992 Technology and Economic Assessment Panel stated, "the development of technologies which do not use either controlled or transitional substances can be inhibited because the prospect of technology using transitional substances discourages investment in technology that would only be profitable if transitional substances were not acceptable."* Simply stated, this means that the production and promotion of HCFCs and HFCs hinders the transition to safer alternatives.

Clearly, environmentally safer alternatives to fluorocarbons exist for virtually every application of ozone depleting substances. It is possible to meet human needs and protect the ozone layer and the global climate at the same time.

The world desperately needs positive action on the part of governments to immediately phase-out all ozone depleting and climate damaging substances such as HCFCs and HFCs and to remove regulatory barriers which hinder the development and wide scale use of environmentally safer alternatives.

The world also needs the vision, inovation and leadership of industry in the further development of environmentally sound technologies. Some branches of industry, and some companies that have seized the opportunities presented by environmental necessities, have made major steps in the right direction. On the whole, however, we still have a long way to go.

Industry needs vigorous stimulus from governments to rapidly convert to ozone and climate friendly technologies. A strong political signal, significantly speeding up the phase-out of all ozone depleting substances, is immediately needed from the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Greenfreeze, hydrocarbon based technology, has now become the standard for domestic refrigeration in Europe, and is rapidly spreading to other parts of the world, such as China, Australia, Latin America.

Stirling cycle is another promising technology for domestic refrigeration which may be on the market very soon.

Secondary cooling systems, utilizing ammonia or hydrocarbons as the primary coolant, and water or glycol as the secondary coolant, are now available for commercial refrigeration and air conditioning in super markets and office buildings.

Gas-fired absorption refrigeration using water and lithium bromide is well developed in Japan. Absorption systems based on zeolite will be the method of refrigeration in the next generation of German Intercity trains.

Portable hydrocarbon air-conditioners are now on the market in Europe. Numerous alternatives are being developed for mobile air-conditioning. These include the use of hydrocarbons or carbon dioxide as refrigerants and adsorption systems using zeolite and water.

Evaporative water coolers are one of several alternatives to current models of refrigerators and air conditioners. In the United States more than 70 companies manufacture evaporative air conditioners for residential, automotive, commercial and industrial markets.

Evaporative waters coolers are already being used to freeze blood plasma. Ammonia in the standard vapour compression system is widely used as a refrigerant in industrial chiller applications. Absorption systems using water and ammonia as a refrigerant have been used for decades.

Air-conditioning technologies based on use of waste heat from on-site electricity generation have the potential to greatly reduce energy consumption. This would eliminate CFC use in many large-scale applications immediately. Energy savings of 20 per cent are often feasible, while eliminating ODCs altogether.


No-clean technology has replaced CFC solvents in much of the electronics industry. Aqueous cleaning, simple soap and water, use of fine ice particles and pressurised gases has also displaced CFC use.


Alternative application methods, such as solid stick and roll-on dispensers, mechanical pump sprays, brushes and pads are among the wide variety of alternatives in commercial use.

Alternative spray propellants include hydrocarbons, dimethyl ether, and other compressed gases such as air and CO2. Many developing countries have switched to, or have always employed propellants such as pentane and butane in industrial uses.

Even in medical applications progress has been made. In Sweden and the Netherlands over 60% of asthmatics are using dry powder inhalers.


Cyclopentane has now become the standard choice for the blowing rigid polyurethane foams which continue to be the dominant insulation used in domestic refrigerator-freezers. Alternative foam blowing agents include water, CO2.

Vacuum insulation panels, which offer superior insulation for appliances and provide significant energy savings are increasingly being applied.

Fiberglass, rock wool and cellulose can substitute for rigid foam insulation.

Fire fighting

Alternative extinguishing agents, such as CO2, water, foam and powder are already widely used. Inergen , a mixture of natural gases like nitrogen, carbon dioxide and argon, is another halon alternative. Good fire prevention practices and the use of fire and smoke resistant materials are significantly reducing the need for halon systems.

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