The dairy fridge in your grocery store might be speeding up climate change

Screenshot of Tina Belcher in dairy fridge from Bob's Burgers
Screenshot: Animation Domination on FOX (Fair Use)

In season three of Bob’s Burgers, Tina Belcher describes walking into a supermarket dairy fridge as being “backstage at a Broadway show about people who buy milk.” It’s true: supermarket fridges do lend a certain air of mystery. What even goes on back there? Greenhouse gases, that’s what.

Advertisement

Turns out that those supermarket freezers aren’t just ordinary freezers. The Washington Post reports that most U.S. supermarkets utilize a network of pipes to transport “compressed refrigerants that keep perishable goods cold.” Most of these chemicals are hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are greenhouse gases thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. As if that’s not scary enough, those hydrofluorocarbons often escape through cracks in the pipes or the buildings themselves, sending them straight into the atmosphere. Bad, bad, bad.

That’s not all: a new undercover investigation by an advocacy group suggests that some supermarkets are leaking these chemicals at an even higher rate than regulators previously thought. Out of 45 major supermarkets surveyed, investigators found leaks in 55% of them. That might help explain the new data released Friday showing that U.S. HFC emissions rose by 4 million metric tons between 2018 and 2019. The Post reports that the result is equal to 49 billion pounds of coal being burned each year.

Fortunately, the Biden administration plans to take action as part of its broader climate action plan. Under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which passed in December, the EPA must phase down the production and import of these gases by 85% over the next 15 years. Most recently, the EPA issued a public call last week for companies to report additional HFC production data. What does this mean for supermarket best practices? That remains unclear—but hopefully it won’t prevent adolescents from finding love in a dairy fridge.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

DISCUSSION

marathag
marathag

As if that’s not scary enough, those hydrofluorocarbons often escape through cracks in the pipes or the buildings themselves, sending them straight into the atmosphere. Bad, bad, bad.

Freon leaks, and that gets expensive, even for R404A and R134A, given the sizes of the systems. What is the rate of leak? pound a year, or a week? the leak rate is important. Tiny leaks are only noticed after gradual loss of cooling ability, big leak, the unit stops working

It isn’t 1970 anymore, with dirt cheap R22, it’s being phased out, and the prices of that are to the point is cheaper to replace the system, than fix and refill a leaking old unit with the old gasses

Last, some systems are using Ammonia or Propane. not the same as HFC for climate impact

But all supermarkets, they run on the bottom line, it’s just too expensive anymore to live with leaky Freon systems