Around the world, there are teams of people working to track down and destroy hidden sources of greenhouse gases-preventing them from harming the planet. Some gases used for freezing have a global warming potential that is many times higher than that of carbon dioxide.
On the outskirts of Guatemala City, Angel Toledo runs a waste disposal company that handles metals, plastics and glass.
For the past three years, they have also begun handling refrigerant gases that contribute to climate change. He sucks gas from home appliances such as refrigerators into a refrigerant recovery machine.
After that, they are moved to a huge tank and destroyed when they are full.
This is a concrete measure of what Angel has helped save.
“I feel fulfilled,” he says. “I’ve been working on plastics, glass and other wastes at this plant for 16 years, but I’ve been working on refrigerants for the last three years.
“It’s like a dream, it helps the environment. It avoids these gases reaching the atmosphere. It’s ecstasy that can help the planet through this work. It’s very important to me.”
However, not everyone disposes of refrigerant canisters and refrigerators the right way.
“Unfortunately, one of the many biggest challenges we face is the need to change common practices. There are cylinders on the street,” he explains.
“They emit gas when working with equipment and cylinders, which are released into the atmosphere.”
Angels are part of a chain of people working to stop these gases that damage the planet. Tradewater’s team, a company funded through climate change offsetting, is negotiating with governments, private sectors and individuals around the world to find ways to safely find, secure and destroy gas.
Once the owner and the local government have agreed, take them to a safe place to dispose of them.
These teams are jokingly called “Ghostbusters” because of the way movie opponents gathered nasty phantoms into large “containment units.” They thoroughly track, trap, and destroy fraudulent gas before it escapes and causes climate turmoil.
They are also known as “chill hunters”.
Almost all refrigerators and air conditioning units use gas to convey the cold or warmth within the unit. This gas is an excellent insulation. It’s convenient in the refrigerator, but not in the air.
The most commonly used gases in the last century were CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons). However, it was banned by the Montreal Protocol when it was discovered in the 1980s that there was a hole in the ozone layer.
Some of them were also powerful greenhouse gases. What is called R12 (CFC) had a global warming potential that was almost 10,000 times that of CO2. One 30-pound canister of this gas contained 131 tonnes of CO2 in terms of global warming potential.
That’s the equivalent of an average British car driving over a million miles.
HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) were brought in as an alternative and helped protect the ozone layer. However, some of the early HFCs were powerful greenhouse gases, such as the ozone-damaging gases banned by the Montreal Protocol.
Today’s legal refrigerator gas is excellent, but it can still have a global warming potential many times higher than carbon dioxide.
Scientists estimate that phasing out HFCs can reduce global warming by about 0.5 degrees Celsius.
Tradewater searches for gas tanks, intact refrigerators, or industrial chillers that are often stored in old warehouses and waste disposal sites. However, sometimes the team arrives too late and only finds flat tires, corroded pipes, and long-released gas.
Maria Gutiérrez, International Program Director at Tradewater, said: A country many years ago “
Inventory is often hidden because these chemicals are located in the legitimate gray area and owners may wish to sell them in the future. The value of scrap iron in a canister alone can mean that gas is emitted and metal is sold.
Global warming gases are also found in some refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners in the United Kingdom. These must be disposed of responsibly. That’s another reason why fly tipping can be very harmful.
Tradewater states that global gas recovery has already prevented 4-5 million tonnes of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere, but work continues.
Gutiérrez said: “We’re just scratching the surface. There’s a lot more there.”
Chill Hunter is featured in 39 ways to save the earth The next two weeks will air on BBC Sound and BBC Radio 4 at 13:45 BST.