What happens to appliances that are recycled?

March 29, 2017

As spring begins, many of us will spend time cleaning and reorganizing our homes. If you have an old, inefficient appliance that you're looking to get rid of, either to clear out space or upgrade to a newer model, this can be a perfect time to dispose of it. Mass Save® supports several appliance recycling programs – including for refrigerators, freezers, and dehumidifiers – to help you easily dispose of your old units. But what happens to these appliances when they are recycled?

Refrigerator and Freezer Recycling

Refrigerators and freezers are made up of several different components, some of which are hazardous if not handled correctly. The recycling process separates these components for proper disposal or reuse. For instance, in a fridge or freezer's cooling system there is chemical refrigerant, which is typically a greenhouse gas called hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). There will also be oil. If the fridge or freezer is an older unit, there may be mercury in its switches and thermometers, and the foam insulation will also likely contain ozone-depleting substances. The refrigerant, oil, and mercury can be recycled and used in other appliances or else disposed of at a hazardous waste facility in compliance with EPA-approved methods. As for the foam, new recycling technology enables this material to be turned into pellets that can be safely burned as fuel, rather than end up in a landfill.

Fridges and freezers also contain easily recyclable components, such as copper, aluminum, steel, glass, and plastic. These materials can be used to build other everyday items. The same aluminum that was once part of your fridge could be used to create your next beverage can! According to ARCA® Recycling, which administers fridge recycling for the Mass Save program, their state-of-the-art recycling technology is able to prevent 85% of a refrigerator's weight from entering a landfill.

Through the Mass Save refrigerator and freezer recycling program, you will not only benefit the environment, but you'll also be able to take advantage of savings. The sponsors of Mass Save will haul away your fridge or freezer at no cost and provide you with $75 for participating in the program. If you replace your old fridge with a new ENERGY STAR® certified model, you could save even more by avoiding up to $100 in energy costs annually.

Dehumidifier Recycling

The fate of recycled dehumidifiers is similar to that of refrigerators and freezers. As with those appliances, one of the first steps is to separate out the refrigerant. In older dehumidifiers, the refrigerant is often hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), which is both a greenhouse gas and an ozone-depleting substance. Depending on its quality, the refrigerant may be reused in other appliances; otherwise, it is disposed of as hazardous waste using techniques approved by the EPA.

During the spring and fall, the sponsors of Mass Save support dehumidifier turn-in events, during which you can receive $30 in return for recycling your old unit. In addition, many towns and local retailers will collect dehumidifiers to be recycled. If you're in need of a new dehumidifier, you may also be eligible for a $30 rebate on your purchase of a qualifying ENERGY STAR® certified dehumidifier. Certified models use over 25% less energy than non-certified models, while removing the same amount of moisture from the air.

This spring, if you're looking to get rid of your inefficient appliances, don't forget about Mass Save's appliance recycling programs. More than 7,000 refrigerators, 1,500 freezers, and 400 dehumidifiers were recycled through these programs in 2016 alone. These programs provide an easy way to reduce landfill waste, save energy, and cut costs – three great rewards for spring cleaning!

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