Working towards a circular economy


27 March 2024
Compressor strip down by a Green Point UK technician

Transforming the cooling industry into a true 'circular economy' is the biggest challenge and greatest opportunity facing the sector, according to Green Point UK, the service arm of compressor specialist BITZER UK.

"The current focus is understandably on decarbonisation through energy efficiency and moving away from high global warming potential refrigerants," said Will Pribyl, General Manager of Green Point UK. "However, this is part of a bigger picture now emerging – the move to a genuine circular economy, where new equipment suppliers integrate recycling and reuse of products as part of a unified approach – conserving materials, extending life, and minimising carbon throughout the product lifecycle.”

BITZER UK and Green Point UK say they are the only compressor supplier in the UK to operate an integrated remanufacturing facility to process end-of-life systems for return as-new to the market.

Kevin Glass, Managing Director of BITZER UK, says: "The circular economy approach is not just an alternative business model, it is a practical necessity for the future. At BITZER UK and Green Point UK, we're already seeing the positive impact of compressor remanufacturing on reducing waste and conserving resources, without sacrificing the quality or performance of equipment. It is a win-win for the environment and the economy.”

The company believes this approach, adopted more widely, will eventually revolutionise the industry by extending product lifecycles, reducing environmental impact, and ultimately leading to a more sustainable and efficient use of resources.

As the world wakes up to the environmental and economic benefits of this approach, people are beginning to question the wisdom of disposable high-cost components, such as hermetic compressors. The spotlight is now also falling on equipment and systems.

BESA, the HVACR contractors' body, has called for a paradigm shift towards refurbishing existing equipment, and urged the government to “make 2024 the year of retrofit”.

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparison between new and remanufactured compressors reveals the dramatic differences in embodied carbon. For example, a new 20hp semi-hermetic compressor has a carbon footprint of 1590kg CO2e, whereas a remanufactured version of the same compressor ranges from 110 to 168kg CO2e*, around one-tenth that of a new unit.

This sharp contrast underscores the potential for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through remanufacturing and repair, rather than disposal of end-of-life compressors.

Comparison of linear economy versus circular economy

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Benefits of a circular economy at each stage

The steps in Green Point’s service cycle

Pribyl added: "These figures aren't just numbers, they represent a clear, measurable environmental benefit. By choosing remanufacturing, we're able to save up to 1480kg CO2e per compressor, and even higher values for larger units. This is a testament to the tangible benefits that circular economy principles can have for the environment.

"There will always be situations where new equipment is required, whether for technical, logistics or other reasons. However, when it is possible to reuse and recycle, and it makes economic sense to do so, there is a strong argument that this should be the default solution."

Glass concluded: "As we move away from high GWP refrigerants, it's now imperative to also focus on how we can make the entire lifecycle of our products more sustainable. The principles of the circular economy offer a roadmap for achieving this. At BITZER UK and Green Point UK we're leading the charge by demonstrating how compressor remanufacturing can be integrated into a total lifecycle solution, and play a pivotal role in this industry-wide transformation."

*depending on the scenario - see following case study

Case study comparing carbon in various scenarios