Food & drinks giants line-up with green activists on HFC reduction

McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Greenpeace and the UN environment programme (UNEP) were unexpected bedfellows at a conference on innovative climate-friendly refrigeration.

The conference highlighted the commitments made by Coca-Cola,
McDonald’s and Unilever Ice Cream to phase out HFCs from their
commercial refrigeration systems:

  • Coca-Cola is currently switching to CO2-based
    refrigeration as an alternative it believes to be “safe, reliable
    and more energy efficient” than HFC equipment. The company says
    that 50% of its suppliers have already switched out of HFC foam and
    that, as of 2005, only equipment using non-HFC blown foam will be
    certified for purchase in the company’s system
  • Unilever Ice Cream has chosen Hydrocarbon (HC) as
    its preferred alternative to HFCs. As of 2005, Unilever has
    committed to buy only HFC-free ice-cream cabinets and expects to
    have already about 80,000 on the market by them. The company says
    its businesses currently operate some 2 millions freezers around
    the world.
  • McDonald’s has run a pilot-programme in one of its
    restaurants in Denmark working only on HFC-free refrigeration and
    will continue development work and testing in 2004-2005. According
    to Greenpeace, Mc Donald’s has undertaken to convert 30,000 of its
    restaurants to alternative refrigeration in a timeframe that is
    still to be defined.

In parallel, environmentally-friendly refrigeration technologies
were showcased as possible alternative to HFCs.

  • Hydrocarbons (HC) are currently used mainly in domestic
    refrigeration and have been available in the EU and Asia for a
    number of years. They are now being introduced in commercial
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) refrigeration systems work similarly to
    conventional systems and one believed to offer excellent
    opportunities for commercial refrigeration.
  • The Stirling Cycle – running on helium and radically different
    to the cooling cycle which traditionally runs on F-gases or
    alternatives such as CO2 or HC – have been used in cryogenics for a
    long time. Its use in commercial refrigeration represents a new
    development particularly for smaller-size.
  • Thermoacoustic cooling
  • Solar-powered refrigerators


In a speech given at the conference, Dr. Gerd Leipold,
Executive Director at
Greenpeace, underlined the "scandal" that HFCs
were not being replaced despite climate-friendly alternatives being
available "at virtually no cost". He described the EU's regulation
on F-gases as "shameful" as it does not recognise the availability
of such alternatives: "EU Member States must significantly
strengthen this regulation by supporting phase-out dates for all
uses of HFCs in refrigeration," Leipold said.

He praised the initiative of Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Unilever
Ice Cream as showing what is possible in the marketplace and
"teaching timid politicians what is technically possible and
economically viable". "There is no excuse for companies not to
follow the lead" shown by these companies, he said, adding that
only government action could force more businesses to follow

Dutch State Secretary for the Environment, Pieter
Van Geel, said that technology could "partly solve the greenhouse
gas emissions problem". "Eco-innovation, he said, is good not only
for the environment, but also for economic growth and employment".
Noting that large-scale use of natural refrige rants had become
economically viable over the past years, he added that politicians
"cannot ask companies to stop using HFCs" but only encourage them.
"I understand the concerns of the business community," he said.

Rajendra Shende, Head of Energy and OzonAction Branch,
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
welcomed the initiative from the three companies: "The future of
sustainable refrigeration lies in this type of forward-looking
technology innovation," he said.


A conference on climate-friendly refrigeration technologies
was organised on 22 June by Coca-Cola, Unilever Ice Cream and
McDonald's. The initiative was supported by Greenpeace and the
United Nation's Environment Programme (UNEP).

At the political level, the EU is currently discussing a new
regulation to reduce F-gases emissions as part of a European
programme on climate change. The bill went through Parliament in
first reading and now has to be examined by the EU Council of
Ministers (see



The environment Council is expected to discuss the proposed
regulation on F-gases at its next meeting on 28-29 June, but a
final agreement is unlikely to be reached before a second reading
in Parliament.


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