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Though legal restrictions are in place to prevent dumping of appliances, many appliances that could be recycled are discarded. Recycling old appliances benefits consumers financially, decreases the exposure of potentially harmful chemicals and prevents excess materials from adding to landfill waste.
BENEFITS OF RECYCLING REFRIGERATORS
Appliances contain refrigerants and foam-blowing agents that, if emitted into the atmosphere, have been shown to deplete the ozone layer. Recycling allows for proper reclamation and disposal of these agents.
Recycling appliances prevents material waste, like plastic, glass, and metal, from being dumped into landfills.
Hazard wastes, such as compressor oils, chemicals from capacitors, and mercury from thermostat switches, can also be properly handled and disposed.
Recycling appliances helps saves on energy bills. Older appliance units can cost up to twice as much to operate than a newer, energy efficient model.
Up to 98 percent of appliances are recycleable, with only 2 percent going to landfills.
APPLIANCE RECYCLING PROCESS & PRACTICE
The EPA promotes participation in Resposible Appliance Disposal, which requires responsible, guided disposal of hazardous waste and materials.
1. Old appliances are hauled to a landfill or waste collection facility. Individual consumers may transport their own appliance, but retailers and independent haulers also offer transport services of old appliances. Some areas may offer curbside pick-up of appliances, with some restrictions.
2. Appliances are then dismantled, either fully or in part. The following materials and chemicals obtained from an appliance requires special handling and disposal:
CFC Refrigerant: Held within a cylindrical tube that is pierced, this chemical is removed and transferred to a storage tank to prevent emission. The refrigerant is then sent to special processors for disposal.
Capacitors: Most capacitors, when found, are removable with standard hand tools. Some older model capacitors contain PCB (a toxic substance), which must be disposed of within one year of removal.
Compressor Oil : A small hole is drilled in an oil reservoir, allowing the oil to drain into an approved container.
3. After dismantling, some processors may crush or bale the body of the appliance, increasing the ease of transport. Bales or whole appliances are then shredded, usually by an off-site auto shredding company, into basball sized scraps of metal.
4. Shredded metal is separated by type and sold for recycling and production of new products. During the shredding process, a mixture of plastic, rubber, and foam pieces called “fluff” is also produced and is usually treated and sold as landfill cover.
PROMOTING APPLIANCE RECYCLING
Retailers and recyclers can jointly promote appliance recycling. Consider offering special haul-away offers or discounts for old appliances that are being replaced with new purchases.
Recyling companies can encourage consumers to recycle any appliance made before 1993. Proactive incentives could decrease the number of old appliances in circulation, as older models are often donated or remained stored at a residence.
Recycling companies and RDA partners should consider marketing and proactive outreach through advertisements, websites, and point of sale flyers to inform consumers.
Recyclers can create a request system for pick-ups, either through telephone or online. Research shows that pick-ups scheduled within 3 to 5 days are most successful.
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