Vehicle air conditioner disposal

Air conditioning units in motor vehicles that contain refrigerants must be removed prior to disposal of the unit. This page provides information on:

Recycling vs. reclamation

In the discussion that follows on this page, it is important to make the distinction between recycling and reclaiming.

Recycling Reclaiming
To extract the refrigerant from an appliance and clean the refrigerant for reuse without meeting all the purity requirements for reclamation. To reprocess refrigerant to at least the purity specified in AHRI Standard 700-2016, and to verify this purity with a laboratory analysis. In general, reclamation involves the use of processes or procedures available only at a refrigerant reprocessing or manufacturing facility. A list of certified reclaimers is available through the MPCA and U.S. EPA.


Four steps to ensure compliance regarding refrigerants for motor vehicle salvage facilities

Step 1: Obtain technician certification, if applicable

Persons who recover refrigerant from motor vehicle air conditioners (MVAC) prior to their disposal must obtain technician certification through a United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) approved program if the refrigerant will be charged into a MVAC or MVAC-like appliance. Alternatively, an employee, owner, operator of, or contractor to the disposal facility may conduct the recovery. Remember, a certified technician must perform the actual recharging into a MVAC or MVAC-like appliance. If the refrigerant is sent to be reclaimed, a certified technician does not need to do the recovery.

Note: if your facility recycles appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, and room air conditioners, a different type of technician certification is required. Contact the MPCA for more details.

Step 2: Obtain refrigerant recovery equipment

Refrigerant must be removed from MVACs by using recovery equipment that is able to reduce the system pressure to 102 mm mercury vacuum. Refrigerants must be recovered using equipment designed to handle a specific refrigerant.

If the refrigerant will be charged into a MVAC or MVAC-like appliance without prior reclamation, then the refrigerant must be recovered and recycled using approved equipment dedicated for use with MVACs and MVAC-like appliances.

Starting January 1, 2018, persons and firms involved in the final disposal of appliances are no longer be required to certify that they have acquired the necessary refrigerant recovery equipment.

Step 3: Manage your recovered refrigerant correctly

  • Salvagers should try to recover refrigerants as soon as possible after vehicles arrive at their facilities.
  • When recovering refrigerants, make sure different types of refrigerants are not mixed. Recover each type of refrigerant into its own container. Refrigerant reclaimers and wholesalers will pay for used refrigerant that is not mixed but they charge for taking mixed refrigerants.
  • Used refrigerants must be recovered into Department of Transportation-approved cylinders.
  • Refrigerant recovered by MVAC disposers can either be sent to a U.S.-EPA-certified reclaimer or be recycled. The recycling would have to be done by a MVAC-certified technician or by an employee, owner, or contractor to the disposal facility using approved recycling equipment, and used in an MVAC or MVAC-like appliance. The actual recharging of refrigerant into an MVAC or MVAC-like appliance would have to be done by an MVAC-certified technician.

Step 4: Keep accurate up-to-date records

  • Keep copies of the technicians' certifications at the place of business or work site, if different.
  • Keep copies of the "Verification of Refrigerant Removal" form at the place of business or work site, if different, for at least three years. When MVACs arrive at your facility with the refrigerant already removed, the MVAC supplier must fill out the "Verification of Refrigerant Removal". This form may act as a contract (for example, between an individual and a salvage yard or between an salvage yard and a scrap metal facility) to document that the refrigerant has been removed from the MVAC(s) prior to delivery.
  • Anyone who sells or distributes ozone-depleting refrigerant must retain invoices that indicate the name of the purchaser, the date of sale, and quantity of refrigerant purchased.
  • Keep records of the waste removed from each vehicle. A form entitled PDF icon Motor Vehicle Dismantling Checklist has been developed to help you establish a set procedure for recovering motor vehicle wastes and to keep records of the wastes removed from each vehicle. Keep this form in conjunction with the "Verification of Refrigerant Removal."

What about appliance recycling?

If you accept and recycle appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, or dehumidifiers, you will be subject to different requirements such as additional technician certification and reporting requirements. For additional information regarding appliances, please see Appliance Recyclers.

Resources on disposal

For more info on disposing motor vehicle air conditioners, check out the U.S. EPA website: Stationary Refrigeration Safe Disposal Requirements | Stationary Refrigeration and Air Conditioning | US EPA