By Jill Abelson
According to U.S. EPA, 19.5 million “monster” fridges -- 15 years or older -- are still in use throughout the U.S., manufactured before 2001 Federal efficiency standards took effect. Most, about 12.4 million, of these monsters are primary fridges in the kitchen, while the rest are secondary, lurking in dark basements or garages. On average, these older units use twice as much energy as a new Energy Star-qualified fridge, collectively eating up more than $4 billion a year in energy costs.
What is more, refrigerator-freezers manufactured prior to 1995 contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as coolants and in the foam insulation. CFCs were phased out in the U.S. in 1996 because they destroy the Earth’s protective ozone layer. CFCs are also extremely powerful greenhouse gases, between 5,000 and 11,000 more potent than CO2 pound for pound.
Retirement and responsible recycling of these clunkers has been an ongoing focus of the U.S. EPA Energy Star Program, EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program, the U.S. Department of Energy, local and regional utilities, and leading retailers. Many local utilities have sponsored contests to find the oldest fridges in their territory, luring some of the oldest but still operating units out from their hideaways.
In previous posts, 3P looked at the global impact of refrigerants’ link to climate change and the increased importance of responsible recycling.
With an estimated 11+ million refrigerators/freezers, 6 million window A/Cs and about a million dehumidifiers disposed of annually in the U.S., according to U.S. EPA’s RAD Program, responsible recycling remains a priority. The vast majority of old fridges end up in landfills or metal scrapyards, where their coolant refrigerants, insulating foam and other hazardous materials may not be dealt with properly. Old, inefficient fridges that can be rehabbed often end up on the secondary market, where they are resold and put back on the electricity grid.
The good news is that there are a number of programs around the country that insure that retired appliances, especially these older fridges, are handled in accordance with U.S. EPA’s RAD Program, thus saving energy; recycling and re-purposing metal, plastic and other raw materials for a second lease on life; preventing release of hazardous materials; and avoiding harmful emissions from refrigerant coils and insulating foam. The environmental benefits are lost if fridges aren’t recycled properly.
What to do with your scary monster? Chances are, your local utility sponsors a program that can pick up your old fridge and offer a rebate, too. U.S. EPA offers these resources to learn more.
Just make sure you retrieve any candy (or beer) from Halloweens of yore.
Jill Abelson is SVP Marketing, JACO Environmental
Images courtesy JACO Environmental