A refrigerator, also called fridge, is a common household appliance used to store foodstuffs and reduce the rate of their spoilage. It is also used to cool different kinds of beverages such as soft drinks, juices, beer, etc. A kitchen would not be completed without a refrigerator. It is not uncommon to see households with two refrigerators: one in the garage and another one in the garage or bedroom. A typical refrigerator has an average life span of 15-20 years. However, many households replace their fridge below this average life span due to the introduction of new models with better features. Many households are disposing away their old refrigerators to buy energy-efficient models and cut their electric bills. It is estimated that more than $100 on energy cost can be saved every year when a pre-1993 fridge is replaced with ENERGY STAR qualified model. After buying a brand new fridge, many owners face the problem and responsibility of disposing the old one in an environment friendly manner. Disposing old fridge in landfills or elsewhere is a very bad idea and considered illegal in some states and countries. A refrigerator contains toxic metals, poisonous and ozone-depleting gases, and non biodegradable materials that take centuries to decompose. The eco-friendly way of disposing old refrigerators is through recycling.
Parts of a Refrigerator that are Recycled
Metals and Plastics. All the internal plastic (shelves and crispers) and metals are removed for recycling. About 25 lbs of plastics and 150 lbs of metal can be recovered in a typical fridge.
Glass. About 3 pounds of glass can be recovered in a refrigerator which can be recycled.
Mercury-containing devices. Since mercury is a toxic heavy metal, fridge devices that contain it should be handled accordingly to avoid being released in the environment. The mercury in the thermostat and switches can be recycled for other purposes.
Capacitor. The capacitor in the compressor should be recycled. If it is contaminated with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), it should be shipped to a qualified handler for proper destruction.
Refrigerant. This can be recycled for use in other industrial equipments.
Polyurethane foam insulation. The approximately 10 lbs of polyurethane foam in a fridge is sent in a waste-to-energy incinerator for complete and safe destruction. About 15 kWh of electricity is generated for a bag of polyurethane foam.
Ways to Recycle
If your old refrigerator is still working just fine, you might consider donating it to people who are willing to accept. Ask your friends, relatives, and neighbors, if they like to get your old fridge. You can also donate it to charities that accept old appliances including refrigerator. Join freecycle.org and look for members who are willing to inherit your fridge.
Contact the manufacturer of your old fridge and ask them if they have recycling program for old refrigerators. If they have such program, most likely they will pickup your old fridge at your home. Also ask the appliance store where you bought your new fridge if they have a recycling program. They may charge you with few bucks for picking up your fridge. There are stores that can pick up your old fridge just after delivering your brand new refrigerator.
Using yellow pages and Google, search on local recycling centers that can pick up your fridge to be recycled.
You can also sell your old fridge to a local scrap metal retailer. You can earn few bucks from it.