Every year, over 3 million fridges are disposed of in the United Kingdom (and a further 3 million bought). The typical lifespan of a fridge is estimated to be 11 years; however, a significant proportion remains in use for more than 20 years. Many of the compounds found in refrigerators if released into the atmosphere can be extremely hazardous to the environment if not disposed of properly.
What are my alternatives for environmentally responsible disposal?
Here are a few options for responsibly disposing of an old refrigerator:
- Give or sell your old fridge, this way you could make some cash whilst disposing of your fridge in an environmentally friendly way. If your old refrigerator is still functional and is still in good working order, you might want to give it to a friend, neighbour, or family member. There are also a number of websites, such as Freecycle, dedicated to repurposing functional appliances. If your appliance is in good shape, some second-hand dealers may be interested. You may also sell it yourself by placing an ad in the local paper, on Facebook Marketplace, on a local website like Gumtree, or by opening it up to a wider audience on eBay. There may be challenges with these techniques, such as difficulties arranging transportation for big items and even letting a stranger into your home for item pickup. It is also worth remembering that the majority of refrigerators still contain potentially hazardous compounds if handled inappropriately.
- Take it to the nearest tip or household waste collection and disposal centre (HWRC)
- If you’re feeling brave and have sufficient transportation (be careful of chemical leakage! ), you can take your old fridge to your local civic amenity site / HWRC for free disposal. Check ahead of time to see if your HWRC facility accepts refrigerators, as not all do.
- If you purchase a new refrigerator, the retailer may provide a service to remove the old one when the new one is delivered. This page will give you an idea of what prices are involved – Junk Clearance Prices Glasgow
- Take your old fridge or fridge freezer to the Local Government waste disposal service
- Local councils will offer and provide a collection service for your old fridge as a resident. The good news is that councils don’t usually charge too much for this, but the negative is that response times are usually fairly slow (at least a week or two) and you, yourself will have to carry the bulky item out of your home and leave the fridge outside and it will have to remain outside for them to collect.
- Jettison Express is a specialist waste removal company that can help with your fridge disposal. If you want your fridge removed by a professional waste removal company such as Jettison Express there is a massive benefit in that we often respond considerably faster than the council.
What are the harmful substances in fridges?
It is extremely important that you dispose of your fridge responsibly as the substances within a fridge can harm the environment and you. It is therefore essential that all fridges are disposed of safely and with great care.
Most refrigerators manufactured before 2000 contain Chlorofluorocarbons (‘CFCs’) or Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (‘HCFCs’) in their insulation and/or refrigerant. CFCs and HCFCs are synthetic chemicals that include carbon, fluorine, chlorine, and hydrogen. Non-toxic and non-flammable, they were widely employed in aerosols, freezers, and solvents until it was discovered that UV radiation was breaking down the CFC molecules, releasing a chlorine atom that was depleting ozone in the environment. Ozone depletion increases the amount of dangerous UV-B radiation reaching our planet. As a result, an international convention was signed (the Montreal Protocol) to phase down their manufacture.
How can I know if my refrigerator contains dangerous substances?
- If your refrigerator was made before the year 2000, it most certainly includes Ozone Depleting Substances (‘ODS’) such as CFCs or HCFCs in its insulating foam or refrigerant. Your refrigerator should be labelled with the manufacturer, model, serial number, and kind of refrigerant utilised. The most commonly used codes are:
- R11 = CFCs contained in insulation
- R12 = CFCs used as a refrigerant
- R22 / R141b / R142b = HCFCs contained in insulation
- R134a = HFCs used as a refrigerant
What laws apply to homeowners who want to get rid of an old refrigerator?
There are three major sections of legislation that govern refrigerator disposal:
- Responsibilities – Waste (Household Waste) Duty of Care Regulations 2005 – all householders disposing of garbage (not only old fridges!) have a duty of care to ensure that it is properly disposed of. In practise, this means you must either a) transport it to a licenced waste facility (such as a local civic amenity site) or b) ensure that any third party you hire to remove the waste is registered as a waste carrier with the Environment. A fridge or freezer can be taken during a house clearance service or as a separate job.
- Agency and provides you with an appropriately completed Waste Transfer Note for the collection. Breaching your duty of care is a criminal offence that can also result in civil responsibility if your waste is improperly disposed of (eg. fly-tipped).
- Removal of ODS – According to EC Regulation 2037/2000, all refrigeration units containing Ozone Depleting Substances (i.e. CFCs and HCFCs) must be removed in a regulated way before the appliance is discarded. Failure to comply with these requirements might result in a £2,500 fine and prosecution.
- Recycling and Recovery – The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations (‘WEEE Regs’) require manufacturers, retailers, distributors, local governments, waste management companies, importers, exporters, and business users to reuse, recycle, and recover refrigerator units wherever possible.
What happens when a refrigerator is recycled?
Unless it is reused, and assuming you choose one of the acceptable disposal routes described above, your fridge will be sent to a dedicated refrigeration recycling plant. Regardless of whether or not CFCs/HCFCs were used in production, approximately 95 percent of an average refrigeration unit is recyclable. Fridges are dismantled in an enclosed atmosphere to ensure that any Ozone Depleting Substances are safely removed. The residual components are mechanically separated into individual product streams for recycling or reuse, including plastics, ferrous and nonferrous metals, and foam. Here’s a more extensive breakdown of what happens:
- The compressor is disconnected from the fridge, oils and gases are extracted under vacuum, and CFC gases are extracted from the oil using ultrasonics – some compressors can be reused after this operation.
- The fridges are shredded in an enclosed nitrogen atmosphere, releasing CFC gases present in the insulating foam. 3) The shredded contents are dried, and the CFCs and nitrogen are caught and transported away for separation.
- A sieve separates the insulating foam powder and collects it for disposal.
- An overhead magnet separates ferrous metal, and nonferrous metal is removed from plastics for recycling.
- CFCs are separated from nitrogen by chilling to -160 degrees Celsius, at which point the CFCs liquefy and can be eliminated by high-temperature burning.