Last year, my wife and I did a partial renovation of our kitchen that involved buying a new refrigerator. The existing refrigerator was a relatively new, energy efficient model, but it was small and did not fit the reconfigured space. But rather than get rid of it, we did what a lot of people do: We moved it into the basement for extra cold storage.
Unfortunately, a lot of these back-up fridges and freezers are much older models that may use three times as much electricity as current models, padding electric bills and placing a strain on the power grid. In addition, they’re more likely to release chlorofluorocarbons — potent greenhouse gases. Even if you want to get rid of that old fridge, it’s hard to know how to dispose of it responsibly. So what to do?
The New York Times’ Green Inc. blog reports on refrigerator recycling programs instituted around the country that offer cash incentives for people to turn in their old iceboxes. An added benefit is that the programs make environmentally conscious mincemeat of the appliances they collect:
As part of the Vermont program, Jaco Environmental will reuse about 95 percent of the appliances’ contents, including foam insulation (which is burned, and its heat used to generate electricity), according to Mr. Sirkin. Steel and plastic may end up in new products like cars or refrigerators, and the tempered glass shelving may wind up in asphalt or helping to aerate some potting soils.