MadSci Network: Environment

Re: What are the by-products of incinerating CFC gasses.

Date: Mon Sep 11 17:22:48 2000
Posted By: Harry Adam, Research Associate, Research Division, Kodak Limited
Area of science: Environment
ID: 964731317.En

Hello Dwayne - you are asking a controversial question because as with 
many things in science there are issues yet to be resolved. No doubt, 
incineration of CFC’s is technically difficult to do in such a way that it 
is guaranteed that dioxins and extremely corrosive acidic gases are not 
produced. Equally, though, any recycling operation needs to have 
guarantees that it is efficient - otherwise some CFC’s escape and ozone 
depletion in the upper atmosphere results. Both are bad consequences - and 
no doubt you have heard that recent measurements of the "ozone hole" over 
Antarctica is now bigger than the USA, and is showing no signs of getting 

I am not an expert in the extremely complex subject of 
incineration, so am not qualified to give you a definitive answer to your 
question. However a few searches on the subject convince me that even the 
experts couldn’t do that. The answer is probably that in some cases, where 
an extremely well controlled incineration plant can reliably do the job - 
incineration is the best option. In others - where the incineration 
facility is less reliable - maybe not - and recycling is a better option. 
Clearly recycling really only puts off the problem of ultimate disposal, 
and if not totally without loss may encourage use of new CFC material to 
make up the difference. Maybe a better policy is to ban use altogether and 
stockpile material until a reliable source of safe disposal is developed 
and available.

Here’s a couple of web sites you may want to visit to read more comment, 
and to understand some of the political issues on which your question 

Thanks for a great question - it is not only an issue for science and 
scientists, but is an issue that can only be correctly solved by good 
science combined with good policy. The whole of environmental regulation 
tends to be like this - and some of it is a done well, and some is a 
little lacking in objectivity.  

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