Are you thinking about remodeling your kitchen and upgrading your appliances? Perhaps the refrigerator or air conditioning unit you owned for 20 years completely stopped working or you want to upgrade to a newer model, thereby decreasing your energy bill. In any one of these scenarios, you need to know how to properly dispose of your old and potentially hazardous refrigerated appliance.
Why is it important to safely dispose of refrigerated appliances?
The primary reason for safely disposing your refrigerator, air conditioning unit, or dehumidifier is environmental concerns, such as ozone depletion and global climate change. Do you know that the refrigerant, foam, and some components in these units are hazardous to others and the environment?
Refrigerants like chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydro chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) are harmful substances that when released into the environment, destroys the earth’s protective ozone layer, which keeps out the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. CFC refrigerant is found in household refrigerators and freezers manufactured before 1995 and HCFC refrigerant is found in most air-conditioning units and dehumidifiers. CFC and HCFC refrigerants are also potent greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
Refrigerators and freezers manufactured before 2005 are insulated with foam that contains OD—either CFCs or HCFCs. If emitted, CFCs and HCFCs contribute to both ozone depletion and climate change. Only units manufactured since 2005 contain foam blowing agents that are ozone and climate friendly. Air-conditioners and dehumidifiers do not contain foam.
Household appliances may also contain hazardous components, including used oil, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and mercury. When these hazardous chemicals are released into the environment, they can cause irritations, cancer, liver or brain damage, and negatively affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and/or endocrine system of humans. Hazardous components, including PCBs and mercury, and compressor oil, must be removed from appliances before disposal by facilities that safely remove these components prior to shredding and recycling.
Warning! Never attempt to remove these hazardous materials yourself!
Components of a Refrigerator Manufactured Prior to 1995
How do I safely dispose of my household appliances?
It depends on where you live. Some electric utility companies offer a bounty program that will pick up your appliance, if the appliance is considered acceptable (e.g., must be in working condition, of a minimum vintage and/or dimension).
If a bounty program is not available in your area, you can contact your municipal department of public works to inquire about the procedures for collecting and disposing of refrigerated appliances in your neighborhood. Typically, for refrigerators/freezers, municipalities require you to make an appointment for bulky item collection, which may be provided at no additional cost. Some municipalities charge a fee for refrigerated appliance collection or require you to haul items to a transfer station or dump. (Your municipality can direct you to a solid waste contractor for more information.) Other municipalities may require the refrigerant to be recovered from appliances before they will accept it for pick-up. In such cases owners would need to hire a technician with certified recovery equipment to remove the refrigerant prior to disposal.
What happens to disposed appliances?
Household appliances that are disposed of are resold, recycled, or sent to a landfill. Appliances that are resold are refurbished and resold domestically or abroad to developing countries. Appliances that are recycled involve the removal of refrigerant and hazardous components followed by shredding of the appliances. Metal components are typically separated and recycled, while glass, plastics and polyurethane foam, are typically sent to a landfill. Refrigerated appliances that are intended for a landfill are separated until a technician recovers refrigerant and other hazardous components, after which, the appliances are land filled.
Information from this article was provided with consent from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For more information on disposing your household refrigerator, go to http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/608/disposal/household.html