How To Safely Dispose of an Old Refrigerator

Fred's Appliance
March 25, 2014

So, you’ve made the decision to upgrade to a new refrigerator, but now you’re faced with the task of disposing of your old refrigerator. You can’t exactly place it at the end of your driveway and expect the garbage company to haul it away. And unless it works correctly, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to sell if in the local classified ads.

What’s Inside a Refrigerator?

Most consumers are completely unaware of the dangerous chemicals found inside refrigerators. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), refrigerators manufactured before 1995 contain chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), which is a known ozone-depleting substance (ODS).

When CFC is contained within the confines of a refrigerator, it doesn’t pose a risk to the environment. However, when the refrigerator is broken down and the CFC is released, it travels into the atmosphere where it eats away at the earth’s ozone layer.

Certain model refrigerators may also contain mercury in their switches, relays and other components. Mercury has since been phased out in modern-day appliances, but refrigerators and freezers manufactured before 2000 may contain small amount. Unfortunately, mercury is a highly toxic chemical with devastating effects on people, animals and the environment. It impairs neurological development while impeding normal organ function.

Disposing of an Old Refrigerator

To ensure that CFC, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and any other potentially toxic chemicals are not exhausted into the environment, consumers should dispose of their old refrigerators appropriately. If you haven’t done so already, call your local power company to see if they offer a trade-in program. Some power companies encourage customers to upgrade to more energy-efficient appliances by offering cash or credit in exchange for old appliances.

Even if your power company doesn’t have an appliance trade-in program in place, another company in your area might. Don’t be afraid to call around to several different power companies to see if they are willing to take your old refrigerator.

Of course, another idea is to take your refrigerator to the local municipal dump. Don’t just drop it off next to the dumpster, but instead talk with the attendant to see what type of disposal options they offer. Most municipal dumps in the U.S. will gladly take refrigerators and other unwanted appliances for a small fee.

If all else fails, contact the refrigerator’s manufacturer. Assuming the manufacturer is still in business, they should be able to provide further guidance on how to properly dispose of it.

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