Approaches include smuggling, mislabelling, misusing the EU transit system, counterfeiting or using disposable cylinders.
This is what makes it so attractive for criminals. It is easy. And the commercial gains are huge. Both for criminals and traders.
But there are simple rules to follow to avoid illegally- imported HFCs.
Buy from reputable sources only. Conduct background checks if you are unsure. If someone makes a cold call and offers HFCs “cash only”, just resist the offer and report it to the EFCTC action line. The 228 reports submitted to the action line during its first ten months of operations are likely to have altogether avoided the placement of more than 4.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent being placed on the EU market, according to investigative agency Kroll.
Also, only buy cylinders that carry EU specifications. If someone offers HFCs and does not request a deposit for the cylinder, then the product is likely illegal. Single use cylinders are certain to be illegal, so keep your hands off them.
If you use HFCs for servicing, keep records of where you bought it and when you use it. This is mandatory under EU rules.
We also need better enforcement. This must begin by overhauling existing processes to tighten controls on the ground.
Customs officials need to be able to check the HFC registry in real time. They need to see if an importer is registered, and how much the importer has already imported.
We need everyone to know what the issue is and be aware what the consequences are. As long as HFC smuggling is not seen as a big problem, customs checks will be less thorough than they need to be.
We need better ways to track illegal activity, prosecute smugglers and apply higher fines and penalties.
If we combine our efforts, we will become one strong movement. A movement that eradicates the dangerous black market for HFCs.