Almost everyone has to dispose of an old appliance at some point. Before you leave your fridge or stove on the curb, or haul it to a landfill, it’s a good idea to take the time to do some research.
Certain older household appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers, need to be disposed of with special care. They contain toxic chemicals and hazardous materials harmful to the environment and to human health. These chemicals and materials include:
1. Refrigerant: the CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant was commonly used in fridges and freezers before 1995. The HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant can be found in many older window air-conditioners and dehumidifiers. Both CFC and HCFC are ozone-depleting substances (ODS), as well as very potent greenhouse gases.
Although the term “freon” is used often to describe refrigerants in general, it’s actually a trade name (Freon™) for CFC and HCFC refrigerants specifically sold by the Chemours Company, a DuPont spin-off company.
Most fridges and freezers manufactured since 1995, as well as air-conditioners and dehumidifiers since 2010, use a greener alternative known as HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerants. However, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), HFCs require careful handling because they’re greenhouse gases.
2. Foam: the insulation foam in refrigerators and freezers before 2005 contain ODS. After 2005, the foam blowing agents used are ozone- and climate-friendly.
3. Hazardous materials: used compressor oil from the cooling circuit in a refrigeration system can be contaminated with refrigerant. Some fridges and chest freezers before 2000 included mercury-containing components. And PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) capacitors were part of appliances made before 1979.
To properly dispose of refrigerant, take the following steps:
1. Check local regulations.
Call your municipality and speak to the department that handles waste disposal, which is often the public works department. It can provide you with refrigerant disposal options in your area, and the steps you need to take to meet local requirements.
2. Hire a certified technician.
If you’ve been told to remove the refrigerant before getting rid of your appliance, you need to hire a certified technician. Your municipality may be able to provide a list of local certified technicians or companies that will remove and dispose of your refrigerant. Otherwise, ask friends or family for recommendations, or carefully research companies online. When you hire someone, ask to see his Section 608 certification card.
Once the technician removes the refrigerant, he should supply you with the proper documentation that states:
- The refrigerant type and amount removed
- Date of refrigerant removal
- Appliance information, such as make, model, and serial number
- Company information
- Technician certification information
A sticker or tag should be placed prominently on the appliance as well, stating that a certified technician safely removed the refrigerant. According to strict EPA regulations, this tag is required by anyone picking up the appliance.
Appliance Disposal Options
Washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, stoves, and appliances with refrigerants can all be disposed of safely and efficiently. There are a number of options, depending on the condition of the appliance, and local regulations. These include:
- Bulk waste programs: Some municipalities have programs where homeowners can arrange for appliance pick-up. There may be a fee. Many areas require refrigerant removal by a certified technician before they’ll pick up an appliance with a refrigeration system from the curb.
- Retail stores: Some appliance retail stores have programs where they will pick up and donate or recycle your old appliance when you buy a new one from them. Certain stores allow drop off if they don’t do pick-ups. If your appliance has refrigerant, ask if they want it removed — some places will do it themselves.
- Electricity providers: Utility companies may offer an appliance recycling program, either on their own or as part of a government program. The utility arranges for pickup by a recycler and gives the utility customer a rebate on their bill. The program usually only covers refrigerators and freezers, which have to meet certain requirements such as the appliance being in working order and/or of regular household size. You may be responsible for removing the refrigerant.
- Charities and nonprofits: Donate your working appliance to charities, nonprofits, and other organizations, such as The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, or St. Vincent de Paul. Call to find out the organization’s requirements before donating. Many offer home pickup programs, and there may be a fee.
- Selling: If your appliance is still in good working order, sell it. Advertise on internet sites such as Craigslist, hold a garage sale, or post ads on local bulletin boards. Take current photos so potential buyers know the condition of the appliance.
- Scrap metal dealers: Many scrap metal dealers will pick up old appliances for free, or for a small fee. Check to see what materials they will accept. You can also deliver the appliance to a scrap metal yard yourself and get paid for the scrap materials. If your appliance has refrigerant, find out who’s responsible for removing it.
- Junk removal services: These services will pick up your appliance anywhere in your home for a fee, and donate, recycle, or take it to a landfill. For appliances containing refrigerants, ask if the company will remove it — most of them do.
- Recycling facilities: City residents showing their latest utility bill with a trash service charge can drop off an appliance for free. For refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers, some facilities require a label or tag showing the refrigerant has been removed by a certified technician. Other facilities will remove it for a fee.
- Transfer stations: Those stations that accept appliances will usually want to see proof of refrigerant removal, if applicable. City residents can drop off their appliance for free, as long as they have a current utility bill with a trash service charge.
- Landfills: Drop off the appliance to the local landfill yourself if it accepts them. Bring your current utility bill, and additional proof of residence if required. Some landfills want proof of refrigerant removal, and others will remove it for a fee.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) lists 50 of the most-populated cities with links to their recycling programs. Each locality has its own disposal regulations.
Earth911 will help you find recycling facilities for a variety of items in your zip code.
Your major appliances are an important investment. You can rely on C&W Appliance Service to protect that investment. Call us at (855) 358-1496 or contact us online for all your repair and maintenance needs.