Appliance Recycling Matters

We rely on appliances to make our lives easier. But when they stop working or are not as efficient, how should we dispose of them?

Appliance parts won’t break down in a landfill. They aren’t designed to biodegrade. Instead, they are built to last for years, which is great until they stop working and can’t be repaired. Fortunately, there are options for people who need to recycle old appliances, and some might even put money in your pocket.

Special Concerns When Recycling Refrigerators

Some appliances, primarily refrigerators and freezers, contain refrigerants, insulated foam, mercury, oil, and/or PCBs, all of which can damage the environment if not disposed of properly. Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency offer programs to help recycle these appliances to reclaim the dangerous parts and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which deplete the ozone.

Federal law requires proper recycling of refrigerated appliances. The EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal program encourages its volunteer partners to use best practices that go beyond federal requirements to protect the environment, including the ozone layer.

How to Recycle Old Appliances

Follow these tips to find the best way to recycle your old appliances:

  • Ask the store where you purchase new appliances if it offers a recycling service. Some retailers will take your old item when they deliver the new one. There might be a fee associated with it, but if you aren’t able to move the appliance yourself, this might be a good option.
  • If the appliance still works, you might be able to donate it to a local charitable organization, such as Habitat for Humanity or a local shelter. Smaller appliances that still work, such as dishwashers, microwaves, and air conditioners, often can be donated to a local thrift or resale store. Check with Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or a similar store in your community to see what they will accept.
  • If you have a truck or trailer and the ability to haul it, you can take an appliance to a scrap dealer. You might need to pay a fee for appliances that contain refrigerant, such as refrigerators or freezers. Dishwashers are mostly plastic, which means they aren’t as appealing to scrap dealers. But appliances such as washers and dryers contain a lot of steel, and scrap dealers will pay you for them.
  • Contact your local trash collection agency. Some provide curbside pickup on a designated day. There may be a fee associated with this service, and not all agencies provide it.
  • Some states participate in programs to recycle appliances. To find if your state is one of them and to see which resources are available, look at the Appliance Recycling Centers of America map.

For more information about recycling large appliances and tips on how to prepare to recycle old appliances, check out Earth911’s Recycling Guide.

Choosing to recycle old appliances responsibly is the smart thing to do. Don’t just throw out your old appliances: Recycle to help protect our planet!