Recycling Appliances Guide
Most houses are filled with appliances, from the washer and dryer to the refrigerator, even to things like your television and your cell phone. Such is the nature of the appliance industry that there is always a newer, shinier gadget available, and appliances very quickly become obsolete.
From an environmental perspective, recycling old appliances can be very beneficial. Most appliances contain damaging chemicals, which can cause problems for groundwater or for animals.
In addition, many of the chemicals and compounds used in the manufacturing of appliances are difficult to make or mine. Therefore, recycling not only prevents damage to the ecosystem but also allows for compounds to be reused, reducing the burden on the manufacturing chain.
However, the size of many appliances makes recycling difficult. Anyone who has ever tried to move a fridge or a washing machine knows the difficulty of maneuvering a bulky, weighty item through your home and attempting to lift it into a car or truck.
Perhaps faced with this difficulty, many of us simply move old appliances to the garage or basement and allow them to decay.
However, this can often lead to chemicals leaking out and causing additional problems in your home, necessitating things like basement floor replacement or health issues for people living inside. Additionally, this would make disposal more difficult.
Because of these difficulties, many states have programs to make recycling appliances as easy as possible. Knowing how to recycle your appliances will not only help you do your bit for the environment but can also potentially make you some money.
Each appliance has a slightly different option for recycling, so the purpose of this guide is to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to recycle your appliances as easily and efficiently as possible.
Refrigerators can be one of the most difficult household items to recycle. Most refrigerators are large, bulky items that can be difficult to remove from your home.
However, because of the chemicals used in the cooling process, refrigerators must be disposed of carefully. Since refrigerators have many steel components within them, much of the shell can actually be reused.
One simple way to recycle your fridge is to ask the company from whom you’re buying the new one. Often, if they offer delivery, they will also offer collection of your old fridge. As mentioned, there is a commercial incentive to collecting an old refrigerator, so this solution works for all parties.
If the company doesn’t offer collection – or if you’re not buying a new fridge – then you will need to recycle it yourself. Check online for your local options, some of whom may be able to collect the fridge from your home.
The important thing to remember is that the final person in the disposal or recycling process is ultimately the one responsible for removing the refrigerant fluid. Failure to do so can result in fines or prosecution.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “if the final person in the disposal chain accepts an appliance that no longer holds refrigerant charge, that person is responsible for maintaining a signed statement from the person who dropped off the appliance. This signed statement must include the name and the address of the person who recovered the refrigerant.”
In most cases, a licensed professional will be able to handle these details, but confirm with them that they are able to fulfill all the legal requirements before you hand over your fridge, or you may be liable for the consequences.
In some states (New York, for example), your cellphone networks are legally obligated to recycle your phone should you wish. Cell phones are made up of a number of useful compounds, including Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (roughly 20% of the phone is made from this), Copper (19%), and Silica (11%).
As a result, throwing your phone in the regular trash can be extremely harmful to the environment.
Phone companies are compelled to accept up to 10 cell phones per customer, although you can also look into local programs where cell phones are reused for low income individuals and those in need. In most areas, you can drop your phone off to a local point, and the charity or service will do the rest.
Many of these programs accept phones that are damaged, although if your phone is beyond repair, then it will need to be recycled for parts, rather than reused.
If you have a cell phone repair shop nearby, ask if they will take donations; they will be able to salvage parts of your phone, or even use it for instruction for their employees.
If you know your washing machine is past its prime or if it starts to malfunction by leaking water into your basement or laundry room, then it may be time to ditch this one for a replacement.
According to EnergyStar – the U.S. government-led initiative on recycling (and energy efficiency) one of the things to be most aware of when you recycle your washer is that it may be resold rather than recycled.
When you recycle your washing machine, be sure to get an assurance – ideally in writing – as to the fact that it will be properly recycled.
For that reason, it is best to use fully credentialed services when recycling your washer. In most states, you will be able to find a government-run program to collect old washers.
EnergyStar recommends checking with the following as your first contacts:
State Energy Office
State Water Utility
Local Waste Management Divisions
State Electric Utility
You can also speak to a local scrap metal recycler. In this instance, you may actually be able to make some money from recycling your washer. However, if you are to go down this route, you should ensure that you get a signed statement testifying to the proper recycling procedures.
Search online to find trusted scrap metal dealers in your area. Your state may also have a register of reputable dealers that you can use as a starting point.
A computer may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of recycling an appliance.
However, the materials used in manufacturing computers can be extremely useful (often in making new computers) and, as such, is definitely something you should consider, particularly if you’ve upgraded to a newer model.
Laptops contain metals such as gold, silver, and platinum, and the energy saved in recycling can make a major difference. The EPA estimates that 1,000,000 laptops recycled would save enough energy to power 3,500 homes in the United States.
One of the major hurdles in recycling a laptop is the fact that you can be at risk of identity theft if you do not take the proper precautions. Handing your laptop over to a stranger can therefore be a daunting prospect.
The first step to take (once you are absolutely sure you do not want to use the laptop yourself) is to remove all the data from the device. To do this:
Firstly, backup your data onto another device. Go through your laptop’s documents and other files and decide whether there is anything you want to keep. If there is, save it onto a flash drive or external hard drive, or even write it down (in the case of phone numbers, for example).
Use a data-erasing program to totally clear everything from your hard drive. You will need to use a piece of third party software to be absolutely sure that you have removed the information unless you are using a Mac.
To erase data, your laptop effectively writes over the top of what you have stored. When you erase your information, you can select how many times you want to overwrite your data.
The Department of Energy standard is three layers of writing over data – the Department of Defense requires seven times.
If you have very sensitive information, you can also encrypt your files before overwriting them.
Once you have cleared all this information, you are safe to recycle your laptop. As with cell phones, look to see if there are donation programs to help low-income individuals without access to a computer. Failing that, your local computer repair store will be able to recycle your laptop, as can the manufacturer.
Be warned, that if you are mailing your laptop, you will need to remove the battery to check whether it is lithium ion. If it is, then your battery will require special transportation.
Many people assume that microwaves contain radioactive compounds, and therefore cannot be recycled.
However, within a microwave, the cooking process is actually done by a ‘magnetron’ – a component that agitates the electrons within food.
Therefore, there is no danger from radioactivity from a microwave, even a broken one.
However, the capacitor within a microwave may require care when handling. As a result of the misconception, however, it can be difficult to recycle a microwave. How you recycle it depends on whether it works or not (or if it is repairable).
If the microwave is repairable or in working order, then you can almost certainly donate it via a local program. Alternatively, try your local repair shop to see if they can help with the recycling process. In most communities there is a social media page for people who want to e-cycle goods.
Try posting your microwave on one of these sites, especially because many of them allow for porch pick-up, so you don’t even have to leave your home.
If your microwave is broken beyond repair, contact the manufacturer, as it may have its own disposal program.
If not, a repair store may be interested in reusing some of the parts.
Televisions became obsolete almost all the time; newer models constantly supplant older ones, and different subscription services often require different connections.
Most people have at least one old TV in their home gathering dust.
To recycle your TV, you first need to prepare it by doing the following:
If you have an older TV, move it carefully so as not to damage the cathode ray tube, which may release harmful chemicals if broken.
As with other appliances, if your TV is working, you can donate it via a local program or a social media group. If it is broken or beyond repair, then you can donate it for parts to a repair shop.
In some cases, curbside pickup may collect an old television, although you will need to check with your local provider in advance.
Some large retail stores also offer a recycling program, so check online to see if one near you can take your TV.
Recycling your appliances is not just good for the environment, but can be good for your community, and even your wallet.
If you donate your appliances to charity, then you may be able to claim money back on your taxes (although you should speak to an accounting professional before you do this). The most important aspect of recycling an appliance is to make sure that it is done safely and professionally.
An unscrupulous company may use your appliance for nefarious purposes (particularly in the case of laptops) and can leave you open to liability concerns.
If your appliances are improperly disposed of, for example, you will bear ultimate responsibility. Therefore, it’s always best to check with your state government to find local programs, or to see a list of registered recyclers.
With a bit of research, you will be able to find someone who can recycle your appliances, and even come and collect them from you (and, in some cases, pay you for the privilege).
This makes it as easy as possible to ensure that your appliances are being reused and you are contributing to a greener planet.
Sources and Further Reading