Roofing panels - the new asbestos?

By Lindsay Gale27 August 2008

Demolition contractors working in the more than 150 countries that are signatories to the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer will have to develop methods of processing the composite roofing panels common on larger industrial structures built from the 1960s onwards.

These panels consist of a sandwich of materials that includes a foam insulation layer ‘blown’ using chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases. On-site cutting, crushing or burning of these panels to recover the metal content of these panels during demolition will therefore result in a release of the ozone-depleting gases that are covered by the protocol and as a result is prohibited under the protocol.

Regulatory bodies around the world that are concerned with site working practices are now turning their attention to implementation of measures to ensure that the Montreal Protocol is implemented. In the UK, the Scotiish Environmental Protection Agency has already had demolition work stopped because of the way that such panels were being disposed of on site and in England the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is turning its attention to the subject. Other countries' regulatory authorities are likely to be following suit.

Given the requirements of the protocol, these panels are required to be disposed of in a similar manner to that as fridges, i.e. under controlled conditions such that CFC emissions to the air are prevented. Unfortunately, in most countries the facilities to handle the size of panels that have been used in construction are few in number, creating yet another disposal headache for the demolition industry.
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