Meet the everyday Heroes

Every day, extraordinary people in the HFC value chain are fighting illegal trade. Discover their stories below.

Maria Krzysztof Grzegorczyk

Maria

Distributor in Greece

“I am pleased that there is now a movement to combat illegally traded HFCs in Europe. As a longstanding distributor of refrigerant gases, our company has felt the effects of the illegal trade over the past few years. However, this is much more than just a business problem and requires work from law enforcement to hold the criminal organisations accountable for the harm they are causing.”

Maria [1], a Greek distributor of HFCs, currently runs a family business which was established over 60 years ago. In recent years, the company has lost business to smugglers active in the illegal trade in HFCs.

Undercut by the black market, almost all of Maria’s smaller customers now buy from illegitimate suppliers. What is more, she has heard that larger end use companies are also unwittingly working with technicians who use illegal refrigerants from disposable canisters. Maria estimates that illegally traded HFCs are so widespread in Greece that between 60% and 80% of the entire market is made up of smuggled product.

Undeterred, the company has written to the Greek government as part of a coalition of refrigeration companies in order to improve awareness and enforcement at borders. F-gas smuggling can be difficult to detect because it takes place in a range of creative ways; the coalition has heard reports of buses hiding containers in the luggage area, as well as refrigerated lorries carrying hidden containers. Despite the EU F-gas regulation being in place since 2015, fines are also rarely applied by the Greek enforcement authorities, so smugglers continue their activities when they are released. These criminal networks are not just smuggling HFCs, however the lack of penalties has made the trade particularly attractive. The Greek Ministry of Finance is aware of this issue and is currently working to bring about more severe fines.

Besides undercutting legitimate businesses, buying illegally traded canisters has the added danger that customers do not always receive the gas they intended to order. Maria has heard that many fill cylinders with whatever product they have available, causing damage to the refrigeration units down the line. Higher GWP refrigerants are available for lower prices on the black market, which is hindering shifts towards newer, more environmentally friendly alternatives.

The availability of illegally traded HFCs in Europe is so pervasive that it requires action from all levels of the value chain. Maria’s work is an excellent example of bringing companies together in order to encourage action from government. Her work to increase awareness about this issue is paramount in order to root out the problem.

[1] Names have been changed

Krzysztof Grzegorczyk

Founder and President of the Board, PROZON

“I started PROZON as part of my social responsibility. I felt like it was my responsibility to limit the impact of the refrigerant gasses so necessary to the industry, to make sure they would be reused and reclaimed, and that the illegal market would not be not allowed to proliferate.”

More than 25 years ago, Krzysztof was working as a refrigerant distributor in a major international company. While working in this role he identified a problem in the market for refrigerant gas: the gases were not being adequately reclaimed at the time. So he decided to do something about it and founded PROZON, the “Foundation for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer”, together with Marek Wawryniuk. Back then, ozone-depleting CFC gases were still used, and Krzysztof made it his priority to make sure that substances were all reclaimed and disposed of properly.

CFCs are no longer on the market, and so PROZON’s mission has evolved. PROZON is continuing its efforts for the climate as the Foundation for Climate Protection through reclaiming fluorinated greenhouse gases. And they are a key player in the fight against illegally traded HFCs. Through close collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Polish customs, they have managed to significantly slow down the illegal market for HFCs in Poland. Ever since this issue first surfaced, Krzysztof and his colleagues have been working tirelessly to raise awareness among ministries, the general public and the value chain. In total, PROZON has trained more than 200 customs officers in a dozen training sessions – showing them how to find and test illegals, and that finding illegally traded cylinders doesn’t have to be difficult when you know what to look for. Over the past years, this collaboration has led to more than a handful of successful seizures.

The impact of the work started by Krzysztof and PROZON has not stopped at the Polish border. During a meeting between the Polish Ministry of Finance and the European Commission Directorate General for Climate (DG CLIMA), PROZON has showed more than 30 representatives from a dozen countries how they work successfully with customs in Poland. Krzysztof and the PROZON team are determined to continue their work and to show as many people as possible how we can eradicate the black market, together.

What can Distributors do?

Only buy from reliable traders

Check the Safety Data Sheet

Report suspicious activity to the EFCTC Action Line

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