Skip to main content

As technology continues to advance, obsolete technologies give way to next-generation technologies. The consumerism ideology coupled with humankind’s appetite for affluence and an overall attitude of entitlement has dwarfed our sense of frugality. Our dwindled sense of frugality has left in its trail a lot of obsolescence and waste that plague our fragile communities and the Earth. Developed countries, in view of their strict environmental laws, find it convenient to dump older technologies on developing countries.

Dumping of environmentally harmful products is defined as “the practice of exporting products to another country or territory that: 1) contain hazardous substances; 2) have environmental performance lower than is in the interest of consumers or that is contrary to the interests of the local and global commons; or 3) can undermine the ability of the importing country to fulfill international environmental treaty commitments.”

Unprincipled companies tend to dump products that they cannot sell in the countries of manufacture in jurisdictions that have no or wea kenvironmental laws and standards. And even where such jurisdictions have environmental laws and standards that ban or restrict the import of the dumped products, weak enforcement mechanisms make dumping possible. Besides, exporting countries intentionally or unintentionally avoid applying their environmental standards to the products they export. In the case of dumped inefficient cooling appliances designed to use obsolete ozone-depleting and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, these devices are“energy vampires” or “zombie appliances” that waste citizens’ and communities’ financial resources that could otherwise be applied for local social and economic benefit.

This is why the dumping of these appliances involves the export and import of poverty.

The proliferation of the energy guzzlers increases the demand for electricity and creates the need to increase existing, often fossil-fuel-powered generation capacities. This phenomenon robs developing countries the resources to improve education, health, road infrastructure, and other societal needs, thereby triggering the poverty spiral.

The zombie appliances impoverish consumers. These appliances are expensive to run because spare parts are not readily available and even if they are, they come very expensive coupled with the frequent breakdown and the associated maintenance cost. Many households in sub-Saharan Africa have been impoverished in this manner. A study in Ghana has shown that consumers who use “second hand”refrigerating appliances, for instance, spend additional $80 annually than what they would have spent if they had opted for new and efficient refrigerating appliances.

The zombie appliances hinder the market penetration of newer, efficient, and low-global-warming-potential refrigerant-using appliances. Investors are scared by the zombie market since the honourable companies cannot compete with the price discounts of dumping. One of the main barriers to energy efficiency is defined as a mechanism that inhibits a decision or behavior that appears to be both energy efficient and economically efficient. Used and new substandard appliances turn markets into “market of lemons” that eventually chase away the quality ones form the market leaving the bad products to dominate the market.

Dumping is an enemy of the environment. Older technologies may not conform to rapidly evolving quality, environmental and other standards, and are more likely tocontain obsolete refrigerants in the case of cooling appliances.This may greatlyincrease the servicing need for such refrigerants, which puts developing countries at risk of non-compliance with their Montreal Protocol obligations involving the refrigerants. Further, as the capacity to manage appliances at end of life in an environmentally sound manner is less likely to exist in developing countries, the likelihood is that increased ozone- and climate-harmful emissions are released into the environment from such appliances. Furthermore, used or new cooling appliances which have outlived their technical usefulness or which cost a lot to run do not endure in the hands of their users, particularly when such users are low income earners a developed country community and even though cooling appliances are increasingly necessary for health and survival in a warming climate. This situation exacerbates developing-country environmental problems with their attendant diseases.

To stop this dumping menace, Ghana, on behalf of Africa, has submitted a draft decision to the Montreal Protocol for consideration in order to stop the harmful dumping of new and used, inefficient refrigeration and air-conditioning appliances using obsolete ozone-depleting substances and HFC refrigerants. All parties to the Protocol are entreated to come together to find a lasting solution to this menace, to avoid the shifting of burdens to those countries that can least afford them each time nations agree to phase out harmful refrigerants, and to make the Earth a better place to live.

Kofi Agyarko

Director, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency-Ghana