Americans throw out about nine million refrigerators and freezers every year. More ultra-efficient models are joining the market, while old energy-hog fridges wind up in landfills where they release ozone-depleting Freon and other potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
An old fridge is “the equivalent of driving a 1965 car to work,” Brian Conners, the president and chief operating officer of Appliance Recycling Centers of America’s (ARCA’s) Advanced Processing facility in Philadelphia, told Discover News. “You can afford the car, you can’t afford to fuel it.”
ARCA has recycled more than 100,000 refrigerators and fridges over the past year, diverting 5.5 million pounds of foam and plastics from landfills for reuse. Thanks to a partnership between General Electric and ARCA, people can bring old fridges to qualifying retailers such as the Home Depot across 12 northeastern states, no matter what the make or model. The Home Depot, in turn, sends the fridges to ARCA’s facility for recycling, where they are run through a massive 40-foot shredder built by the Austrian company UNTHA Recycling Technology to be crushed into inch-and-a-half pieces in a matter of 50 seconds. “Think of it as a giant paper shredder,” Conners said. In addition to its 600-fridge-a-day speed, the shredder recovers approximately 95% of the insulating foam and harmful gases. “The environmental benefit of treating the foam is tremendous,” Conners noted. “It’s the cutting edge of technology.”
“We are reducing emissions of ozone-depleting substances, greenhouse gases and the amount of waste entering our landfills, and protecting our air and water,” added Mark Vachon, GE’s vice president for ecomagination.
In the future, Conners added that he’d like to see the process go national. “Our goal is to do zero-landfill appliance recycling,” he said.