'Fridges, Fabric and Fowl

Just the facts on CFCs, textile recycling and killer beverage rings

I understand that there is a ban in place on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Where can I purchase a CFC-free refrigerator?

—Dorothea Buck
Davenport, IA

Unfortunately, Americans can’t currently buy a refrigerator that is “CFC-free,” meaning that it no longer contains materials that deplete the ozone layer. Europeans are way ahead of us with this technology.

Sean Clark, ozone campaigner for Greenpeace, says the organization approached an East German refrigeration specialist in 1992 and offered to help it develop an ozone-friendly hydrocarbon refrigeration system. The resulting technology, offered free to any manufacturer that wants to use it, is called Greenfreeze. Since then, Greenpeace has applied the name “Greenfreeze” to any refrigerant technology that does not use environmentally damaging chemicals. “In Europe every major refrigerator company has converted to Greenfreeze technology,” Clark says, noting that U.S. companies are still resistant. “The Greenfreeze domino is rolling and the U.S. market will be forced to flip over to the Greenfreeze models,” says Clark, who adds that at least one U.S. manufacturer is planning to market a Greenfreeze refrigerator.

Whirlpool manufactures some refrigerators that don’t use CFCs, but do use hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in the foam-blowing insulation of their door panels. Although HCFCs have only one tenth the ozone-depleting potential of CFCs, an appliance with HCFCs is not CFC-free.

Greenfreeze hydrocarbon refrigeration technology relies on ozone-safe butane or propane fuels. Why isn’t it used here? Whirlpool’s Vince Anderson, director of environmental and regulatory programs, admits this is “frustrating for green consumers,” but charges that hydrocarbon foam insulation results in excessive air leakage, increases energy consumption, and presents an explosion danger when used in U.S.-style frost-free models. For Greenfreeze technology to catch on here, Americans will have to adopt to a smaller, more Earth-friendly refrigerator.

CONTACT

Greenpeace
1436 U Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
Tel: (202) 462-1177


I’ve heard that discarded plastic beverage rings “kill thousands of waterfowl each year.” Isn’t this exaggerated?

—LR Bergstrom
Holland, MI

Jonathan Amson, senior marine scientist at the Oceans and Coastal Protection Division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), estimates that marine debris is accountable for somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 waterfowl deaths per year due to entanglement and ingestion.

The 1994 U.S. National Coastal Cleanup Results report from the Center for Marine Conservation showed that 58 percent of the 2,828,789 pounds of debris collected during an annual cleanup of U.S. waterways was plastic. The Environmental Encyclopedia estimates that plastics, along with discarded fishing gear, kill one million sea birds—in 128 species—annually around the world.

A major problem with plastic debris is that it isn’t biodegradable. According to the book Plastics: America’s Packaging Dilemma by Nancy Wolf and Ellen Feldman, synthetic plastics lack the active chemical properties to biodegrade, which make them dangerous to wildlife. Some companies use a “photodegradable” six-pack loop which degrades after short-term exposure to ultraviolet light. And International Paper has developed safer six-pack holders called Triton paperboard rings, made of recyclable paperboard.

CONTACT

Oceans and Coastal Protection Division
Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street SW
Washington, DC 20460
Tel: (202) 260-8448


Where can I recycle clothes scraps and other cotton materials such as jean fabric?

—David Kerkhoff
Knoxville, TN

According to the book Taking Out the Trash by Jennifer Carless, textile recycling is booming. But that’s on the wholesale level. Jockey International, for instance, makes its briefs go the extra mile by selling waste cotton products to a paper-making company, which uses the recycled textiles as a strengthener for stationary and document paper.

Greenwood Cotton Products, in Roswell, Georgia is the third largest denim material manufacturer for companies like Levi Strauss & Co., Wrangler jeans, Lee jeans, military uniforms and cotton Dockers. Since August 1995, the company has been marketing a natural, healthier building insulation fiber made from recycled jean material. Kirk Villar, Greenwood Cotton’s vice president of sales and marketing, says that its products are available at many hardware stores in the East Coast, and are a great alternative to the popular but toxic fiberglass insulation material.

But what’s the individual consumer with a few recyclable cotton scraps to do? Most textile recycling companies only deal with large volume shipments, but a company in Waynesboro, Tennessee, Buffalo River Services, collects and bales donated scrap textile materials and sells them to Dallas, Texas’ United Southern Waste, which turns them into cotton rags. Outside the Lone Star State, contact the waste management division of your state environmental protection department.

If your getting frustrated finding a recycler locally, Taking Out the Trash suggests that you get things underway yourself. Try giving away unwanted clothing or donating it to a homeless shelter; stuff old stockings into a weatherproofing roll to put in front of a drafty door; or use cloth to make sacks for Christmas presents.

CONTACT

Buffalo River Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 655
Waynesboro, TN 38485
Tel: (615) 722-5401