Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Time to switch off Derek's life support

I mentioned in my last podcast that I'm trying to figure out what to do with my old fridge ('Derek'). I want to dispose of him in an environmentally-friendly way, and I thought I would share the fruits of my research.

The first thing I discovered is that age matters. Fridges made before 2000 almost certainly contain harmful CFCs or HCFCs (freon in the US) which are both ozone-depleting and many thousands of times more potent that carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Fridges more than 20 years old also use between two and four times more electricity than modern ones, according to the EPA.

But the good news is that more than 90% of a fridge is recyclable. That all leads me to two conclusions:
  1. It is time to flick the switch on Derek's life support. There is no point prolonging his life when he probably uses more energy living than dead. 
  2. Derek will have to be disposed of professionally. Just landfilling him or flytipping (kidding), can result in CFCs leaking and a number of other hazardous materials such as mercury contaminating the earth and ground water.
Chucking your old fridge

Having read a lot of advice pages, this seems to be the consensus:

  • First check how old you fridge is. If you don't know, check for a label on either the inside or back of the appliance. It should list the type of refrigerant used:

Fridges will usually have a label showing the refrigerant type to help date it. 
 fridges will list
 R12 as a refrigerant. 1994-2000
 fridges will normally say 
  • If you fridge is relatively new (say 2000 onwards) consider donating or selling it using a site like Freecycle, Gumtree, Craigslist or a second-hand dealer.
  • Otherwise, check whether the manufacturer has a take-back scheme or whether the vendor of the new fridge will recycle the old one.
  • Check if your council or municipality will collect and recycle fridges. There may be a small fee. Council dumps accept fridges free of charge.
  • In the US, some electric utilities have bounty schemes with financial incentives for trading in old fridges.
  • Waste disposal companies will collect for a fee, but it is important to ask how they plan to remove the refrigerants and foam. UK waste firm Any Junk recommends asking for a Waste Transfer Note.

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