„Reducing the world’s carbon footprint”

Reducing carbon footprint is one of the most important goals on governmental, industrial, and individual level to tackle the climate crisis and its impacts. Developing CO2-emissions-reduction strategies to achieve carbon neutrality and the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C global warming limit is a challenging task for businesses and nations alike. On the way to net zero emissions, many companies, countries, and individuals use carbon offset to compensate for their carbon footprint – they invest in projects that reduce carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions in order to offset their own emissions. Carbon-offsetting is a supportive measure to the long-term target of reducing total emissions produced, and carbon-reducing measures implemented within industrial processes and supply chains play a critical role.

Tradewater’s partners at City Waste Recycling in Accra, Ghana, show stockpiled cylinders of CFCs ready for transport to a destruction facility in the United States.
Tradewater’s CEO Tim Brown uses a refrigerant analyzer to identify the refrigerant content of a cylinder.
Tradewater's Operations Manager, Linda Doncsecz, with refrigerant transferring equipment at Tradewater's facility in Elk Grove Village, IL.

Tradewater, based in the United States, has made this goal their company's mission: They collect, control, and destroy potent, high-impact greenhouse gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are 10,900 times more potent than CO2 and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are 1,800 times more potent than CO2, used in refrigerant, cooling, and chilling systems. By targeting these refrigerants and converting them into carbon credits, Tradewater is improving the environment while also creating an economic opportunity. They not only provide carbon offsets, but also assist businesses in addressing other operations that could be more sustainable.

Contact: Tim Brown,


Tim Brown, the CEO of Tradewater, has worked in the environmental field - both for profit and non-profit - which raised his interest in developing a company that could support the fight against climate crisis, and thus the idea of collecting and destroying greenhouse gases was born. Tim began working on refrigerant gases after becoming more aware of this topic in 2012, when California's carbon cap-and-trade program began. The program served as an implementation mechanism for the Global Warming Solutions Act, which was passed by the state of California in 2006. A component of the program was to allow carbon offset credits to cover a part of the compliance obligation for greenhouse gas reductions. The state of California had identified a few project types that were eligible, including the collection and destruction of ozone depleting substances such as CFCs. These gases had been banned from production due to their impact on the ozone layer, but they were still widely used. The Montreal Protocol prohibited the production of those gases but did not address what should be done with the gases that had already been produced. Furthermore, CFCs and HCFCs are not required to be reported under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, presumably because they are already addressed under the Montreal Protocol and its amendments.

The state of California established and implemented an offset protocol for the produced gases, but there was no mandate to collect and destroy them. Tim bought an old refrigerant cylinder from eBay out of curiosity, and "it was very fascinating to me that you could actually buy pollution." Following that experience, Tim founded Tradewater with Gabriel Bankier Plotkin (COO) in 2016, and they were able to develop a program in 49 states in the United States, where they found old refrigerant cylinders and cans, but also chillers and cooling equipment that they recovered. They have been collecting and destroying greenhouse gases since then and are not planning to stop any time soon. Tradewater has thus prevented over 5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent from being released into the atmosphere, and they hope to increase this to around 3 million tons per year, which is critical in combating climate crisis.

The Tradewater team has destroyed over 5.3 million tons of refrigerant. The Elk Grove Village facility oversees the receipt, sampling, processing, aggregation, and ship out of these materials for destruction.

Tradewater has created carbon offset credits from that work which had been utilized both in the cap-and-trade program in California, but increasingly, with companies that are seeking to have high quality carbon offsets as part of their net zero strategies. They also sell carbon credits to individuals and small businesses that are looking to address their carbon impacts and see Tradewater as a bridge from their current impact on the environment to a more sustainable production in the near future.

Tradewater were able to start internationalization in 2017 after being contacted by future partners from Ghana who were working on a project to recycle old refrigerators. Despite the fact that all countries on the planet have ratified Montreal Protocol and that CFCs were phased out in 2010, HCFCs in 2020 in developed countries, and developing countries to follow by 2030, there are still many CFCs and HCFCs sources due to a lack of monitoring and waste management practices for old equipment, particularly in developing countries. That was also the case in Ghana. They were draining the refrigerant gases, but Ghana lacked the capacity to destroy them. As a part of an international carbon trade program facilitated by VERRA , Tradewater brought the refrigerants from Ghana to the United States, safely destroyed them, and converted them into carbon credits through VERRA's program.

Another project in Ghana followed in 2018, and Tradewater is now working in eight countries across three continents to collect and destroy these gases, and they are motivated to "go after them everywhere." The Carbon Neutral Collective and the Catalytic Coalition are two types of partnerships offered by Tradewater. The first allows small and medium-sized businesses to calculate and offset their carbon emissions through a subscription to Tradewater's carbon offset credits developed through projects that find and destroy greenhouse gases, while also assisting partners in analyzing other business operations that could be more sustainable. The Catalytic Coalition helps businesses in identifying high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants used in their facilities, specifically CFCs and HCFCs, and works to convert those cooling systems to lower GWP alternatives. The program promotes sound refrigerant management practices and provides end-of-life destruction for high GWP refrigerant gases.

Process technicians Bradford and Victor transfer material from 50-lb cylinders to a half-ton.

Tradewater is looking for partnerships with companies and other organizations around the world that are interested in the collection and destruction of greenhouse gases, not because of regulations, but because they realized how potent these gases are and that this activity fits within the sustainability journey of these organizations’ commitments. "We want to look at multinational companies, and create partnerships to eliminate refrigerants that are potent greenhouse gases as much as possible," Tim says.

With their unique approach, Tradewater demonstrates that “a company can form and be quite successful in holding sustainability as its key and foremost objective. There is a real opportunity to add value in this fight against climate crisis and do so in a way that works from an economic perspective.”

ISC3 is supporting Sustainable Chemistry solutions and business models, such as Tradewater´s approach, addressing Sustainable Development challenges. Do you have an innovative idea in the field of Sustainable Chemistry and Waste: Prevention, Valorisation & Management? Then have a look at our Innovation Challenge 2022.