Illustration by Kerry Lemon
When you next reach for the Viennetta or the bag of Petis Pois, stop to think about the chilly compartment you are extracting it from. If you are at a well-known supermarket, it is most probably an out of date, leaky and poisonous piece of equipment. At the start of this week The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) launched their latest campaign, Chilled Facts. The information they uncover is finger-numbing.
This concise history of supermarket refrigeration may be helpful in understanding why it is important that consumers are made aware of leaky freezers…
In 1987 ozone depleting CFC gases were replaced by HFC gases in supermarket fridges and freezers. It was believed that HFC’s would be less harmful to the environment. However, if leaked, HFC’s are emitted into the atmosphere and have a global warming potential of 53-14,760. This is over 4000 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.
So what are the alternatives?
The EIA is urging supermarkets to switch to natural refrigerants such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons that contribute less to global warming and ozone layer depletion. Furthermore, these natural refrigerants can be produced organically as a recycled by-product of the brewing industry. But Britain’s big supermarkets are largely ignoring these greener alternatives, and the government are doing little to sway them otherwise.
‘First plastic bags, now freezers, can supermarkets do anything right and which should we be more worried about?’
(Taken from the EIA’s supermarket and refrigeration survey) ‘Leaking refrigerants account for about a quarter of a supermarket’s direct climate change emissions. In 2005 the global warming impact of these emissions were equivalent to producing 10 billion plastic carrier bags, taking 2 billion car trips to the supermarket or flying from London to New York over 2.5 million times.’
The upshot is if you, like lots of us, have duly ditched the plastic bag for a trendy canvas one then you can pat yourself on the back. But, although this is a step in the right direction, combatting the damage caused by leaking HFC gases from refrigerators is a more urgent imperative. The next step is to write a polite letter to your local supermarket asking them to switch to natural alternatives. To obtain a template of such a letter and to find out how Iceland fares against M & S go to the Chilling Facts Website.
- Earth Day
- The 10:10 campaign launches
- Food from the Sky: Growing food on top of a Supermarket in Crouch End
- Change of mind, change of heart
- Blacksmoke: Danger Global Warming Digital Gallery