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China will ban a chemical foaming agent used to make polyurethane insulation that can deplete Earth"s ozone layer.
Affected enterprises are asked to switch to low-carbon and more environmentally friendly replacements, the country"s top environmental watchdog announced on Wednesday.
Starting Jan 1, manufacturers of refrigerators, refrigerated containers and electric water heaters will no longer be able to use foam insulation made with the chemical－known as HCFC-141b－according to a statement from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
China began to weed out HCFCs, a category of ozone-depleting substances, in the polyurethane foam industry in 2011, shifting to lower-carbon and more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which China joined in 1991, the country was required to phase out six categories of the substances. To date, all categories except HCFCs have been banned, according to Hu Jianxin, a professor of environmental sciences and engineering at Peking University.
They will be gradually weeded out over time, starting with the three industries that typically use materials incorporating HCFC-141b.
If any company continues to use HCFC-141b materials in the manufacture of insulation for refrigerators, refrigerated containers or electric water heaters, profits and products will be confiscated, Hu said.
While burnishing China"s image as a responsible world power, the ban will help optimize the industrial structure in the three sectors and enhance their international competitiveness, he said.
According to the China Household Electrical Appliances Association, China produces more than 73 million sets of household refrigerators and 22 million freezers annually.
Jiang Feng, president of the association, said China is now the largest producer and exporter of refrigerated shipping containers. The country"s production capacity for electric water heaters is expanding by 15 percent per year.
"The ban will not have a negative impact on social or economic development, or to employees in the three industries," Jiang said, adding that it will help guide the companies to achieve sustainable development with lower-carbon and more environmentally friendly technologies.