5 surprising ways you’re damaging the ozone layer
By OVO Energy Friday 18 September 2015
What is the ozone layer?
The ozone layer is less of a physical ‘layer’ and more a highly-concentrated atmospheric area of a form of oxygen called ozone, which plays an important role in absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Too much ultraviolet radiation can lead to skin cancer, cataract damage and harm to plants and animals, which we of course rely on for our own survival.
Researchers discovered that chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – which were found in aerosols, solvents, packaging, and appliances – were largely to blame for ozone depletion. At its peak, companies were producing a million tonnes of CFCs every year, so along came the Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, which heralded the global phase-out of these chemicals, and 16 September was designated International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer – a day designed to raise awareness of the issue.
And it’s worked! Research in 2016 found that the ozone layer has gradually begun to repair itself, and could even be back to 1980 levels by 2040 – providing, of course, that we keep up the good work (you can even follow its progress on NASA’s website). CFCs have largely been banned around the world, but there are still ways you could be harming the ozone layer without realising it. Are you guilty of any of these ozone-damaging actions?
You’re not careful with your old car’s air con
Car air-conditioning systems used to contain CFCs, specifically R12 (Freon). So if you’ve got an old banger, the system should hopefully carry on ticking along until the end of its life. However, if it’s damaged or needs maintenance, you’ll need to get it converted to a system like R134a.
Also, when it comes to scrapping the vehicle, you must choose somewhere that has a waste management licence or is exempted under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994.
You haven’t upgraded your fridge-freezer
If you’ve got a pre-1994 fridge-freezer, you should consider replacing it as it could have been made with CFCs. Not only will this eliminate hazards to the ozone layer, but newer models are considerably more energy-efficient, so you’ll save money on your energy bills, too. Contact your local council for advice on the best way to dispose of your old model.
You have an old fire extinguisher
Keeping a fire extinguisher in your home is a very sensible idea, but check its active ingredients. ‘Halon’ or ‘halogenated hydrocarbon’ is a harmful ozone-depleting chemical often found in older models. Find a hazardous waste centre where you can recycle it, or call your local fire station for advice on the best way to dispose of it, and replace it with a newer halon-free extinguisher instead.
You buy cheap wood
Making your own furniture must be better than buying it from stores that use manufacturers in developing countries all over the globe, right? Well, yes. But whether you’re a hardcore DIY enthusiast or are just after a bit of wood for the garden, be sure to check the way it was treated before you buy lumber or plywood. Generally speaking, a stamp showing ‘HT’ indicates the wood has been heat-treated, while ‘MB’ means the wood has been treated with methyl bromide, a chemical that has been found to be more toxic to the ozone layer than CFCs.
You eat a lot of cheese
It’s no secret that eating less meat is good for the environment. Raising livestock puts strain on land and resources, not to mention the fact that it creates much more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trains and planes put together; significantly contributing to climate change. It’s a lesser known fact that nitrous oxide, a byproduct of manure decomposition, also plays a role in ozone depletion, and that livestock farming is responsible for 65% of all human-related nitrous oxide emissions. So lowering your meat consumption is a great first step – but don’t forget that cheese and other dairy products are animal products as well.
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