Russia has seized over twenty tons of R-22 imported in boxes of R-134a. R-22 was banned by the Montreal Protocol in 2010 and is scheduled to be phased out across the world by 2020. The production and importation of R-22 is strictly regulated and persons can face serious consequences if they do not abide by their country’s laws when it comes to importing R-22. In Russia it was decided that the production within the country would be enough quantity to handle the market so the Russian government banned all imports of R-22.
Whoever did this was looking to make a lot of money fast. Since R-22 was banned the price has sky rocketed to about $300 a cylinder. The product that Russian authorities found came from China where the price of R-22 is around $50 a cylinder. Obviously, you can see the temptation here. This smuggler brought in an entire trailerload of R-22, so you’re looking at twenty pallets of forty cylinders each, or 800 cylinders. 800 cylinders at $250 profit a cylinder and you’re looking at $200,000 profit. Not too shabby if I say so myself… but I don’t have much sympathy for the person who imported this in. They knew they were breaking the law and attempted to disguise the product as Ozone friendly R-134a. They saw the dollar signs and not the repercussions.
I’m not sure what tipped off the Russian authorities, or if this was a random check, but good for them on catching it. The whole point of banning R-22 was due to it’s harmful affects on the Ozone layer. Smuggling in R-22 to make large profits is not looking at the big picture. This does lead to the question of how many illegal imports of R-22 are not found in Russia, and if it is happening in Russia it is most definitely happening in the United States. Perpetrators of illegal importing can face substantial fines and even jail time under the Clean Air Act. They know what they are doing is wrong yet they still do it. (Why else would you disguise it as R-134a?)
Hopefully customs agents catch more of these in the future and deter smugglers from trying this again.