GE joins EPA’s responsible appliance disposal program

Each year, more than 9 million refrigerators are disposed of in the United States. However, very few of them are disposed of properly. To help reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emission, GE Appliances and Lighting has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a refrigerator recycling plan, part of the agency’s Responsible Appliance Disposal program.

The goal is to recycle the insulating foam in the walls and doors recycle and doors of the refrigerators, as well as the metals and other substances. 

The EPA noted that although 90 percent of used refrigerators in the United States are shredded for their metal, the remaining foam and other materials typically go to landfills. During the shredding process, a substantial amount of GHG and ozone-depleting substance (ODS) emissions are released into the atmosphere.

GE will hand over out-of-use fridges toAppliance Recycling Centers of America Inc., supplying used-appliance volume from a six-state region to ARCA Advanced Processing’s regional recycling center in Pennsylvania. ARCA is investing in appliance recycling technology from UNTHA Recycling Technology that recovers approximately 95 percent of the insulating foam in refrigerators, reducing landfill waste and GHG and ODS emissions as compared to what typically happens in the industry today.  

“GE and ARCA’s management of refrigerators, particularly the foam insulation, during the recycling process is innovative and raises the bar in the U.S. appliance industry,” said Drusilla Hufford, stratospheric protection division director of the EPA. “As the first appliance manufacturer to join EPA’s RAD Program, GE is demonstrating leadership by responsibly recycling appliances and reducing harmful emissions to help protect our planet.”  

Today, the U.S. appliance recycling industry is very fragmented with wide variation in processes and little investment in foam recycling technology," according to Hufford.

"GE and ARCA have plans to vastly improve appliance recycling and refrigerator foam recovery in the U.S. These joint efforts will significantly reduce landfill waste and GHG and ODS emissions," she said.

Not only do GE and the EPA believe recycling refrigerant-containing appliances is a critical step in protecting the environment, but a recent survey conducted on behalf of GE suggests 70 percent of consumers want all or part of their used appliance to be recycled. 

ARCA will employ a URT system that includes the capability to automatically capture the blowing agents, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and cyclopentane from the insulating foam in refrigerators and freezers. GE and ARCA’s initial recycling efforts will begin at ARCA Advanced Processing’s regional recycling center in Pennsylvania.  The center is on schedule to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2011. 

“The potential of this technology is tremendous,” said Brian Conners, President and COO of ARCA Advanced Processing. “If the foam from the 9 million refrigerators disposed of annually in the U.S. were processed through this recycling technology, the greenhouse gas emissions avoided would be equivalent to the annual CO2-e emissions of more than 2.4 million cars on U.S. roads.”

For more information, see our Appliances Research Center.


Topics: Appliances, Refrigerators

Companies: GE Appliances, Environmental Protection Agency, GE Appliances


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