In Europe, there are 4.6 million snacks and bottled drinks vending machines and point-of-use, which are the machines that use a cooling unit. These machines are operated by HFC gas R-134a and will probably continue to be in use in the market until approximately 2030, according to the usual life cycle of a vending machine.
According to EVA, apart from a few tests conducted over the years, there is not a single manufacturer that produces vending machines that use CO2 in Europe. Even if manufacturers started to produce machines that used CO2, EVA maintains that the size of the machines would increase considerably for the simple reason that extra room would be necessary to allow the installment of a refrigeration system to cool the compressor where the CO2 would be stored in the machine. Currently, with the R-134a gas, there is no such need.
The consequences of an increase in machine size are threefold, according to EVA. The first issue would be waste treatment, which would increase proportionally according to the size of the machine, given that vending machines are regulated under the WEEE Directive. This in turn would increase the machines energy consumption. Also, incorporating CO2 into a vending machine would require the machine to be redesigned, and, therefore, cost efficiency would not be optimal.
The association stressed that it is committed to the environment and would not be opposed to adopting the use of alternative refrigerants in the future, provided they remained safe, as well as economically and environmentally viable.