Updated Nov 24, 2021

HFCs being smuggled into the UK

An investigation undertaken by the BBC has found that there is a black market in hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which are being smuggled into the UK from Eastern Europe.

HFCs are a type of fluorinated greenhouse gas (F-Gas) commonly used in refrigeration and cooling equipment. Following the creation of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, ozone-depleting substances were banned, resulting in HFCs being developed as an alternative to those banned substances. However, many HFCs have a high global warming potential, above that of carbon dioxide, and will contribute to global warming if released.

As a result, by law, those working with F-gases such as HFCs must be qualified to do so, and those importing HFCs into Great Britain must have a registered F-gas account and apply annually for a quota to import. Importing without a quota, or without the correct amount of quota, is an offence.

The BBC's investigation looked at the Romania-Ukraine border. There they found HFCs manufactured in China being smuggled through in cars and lorries. At that point the BBC was offered two canisters and were given advice about how to get them back to the UK. The HFCs are being sold illegally via social media such as Facebook marketplace.

The BBC also found a trader in North London selling HFCs in illegal disposable canisters. That trader was not qualified to handle the gas.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: "We are firmly committed to ensuring that businesses comply with regulations to reduce emissions from HFCs, and will take strict enforcement action where necessary".

Back in September, the Environment Agency fined a company over £1m for exceeding their quota for placing the gases on the market.

For more information, see: