How to Get Rid of Old Appliances
Help save the planet — you might even make some money in the process
If you buy a new fridge or washer-dryer combo, the installer will often haul away the old one for free. Why? Not just to be nice; they make money by recycling it. The cash might not be enough to inspire you to haul it yourself to a recycler, but there are other ways to make money — and help save the planet.
Dumping old appliances into a landfill is a bad idea for two reasons: chemicals and metal. Federal and state laws prohibit dumping major appliances filled with refrigerants and oils. And why waste metal? Scrap metal dealers will be interested in the copper and steel inside larger appliances.
Option 1: Call your local utility. Your first stop should be your local utility. They have every motivation to get you to upgrade power-wasting older appliances, especially energy-sucking refrigerators, which run non-stop year-round. Often, utilities run bounty programs and will pay you for the privilege of taking away that beast of a side-by-side.
Rather than put an older fridge in the garage, find out if you can collect that bounty for it. You could get up to $100, and your power bill will be permanently lower if you replace the old unit with an energy-efficient model.
Call your utility and ask about current bounty programs and how to participate. You can also go to the Energy Star Rebate Center and search by your zip code and the appliance in question.
Option 2: Let the installer haul it. If you bought a new appliance and the installer is willing to take it away — and you don’t mind losing out on some cash — go ahead and let them take it away. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works with retailers to make sure that appliances collected by installers end up in a Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) center for gas removal and that polluting chemicals used in their manufacture, such as mercury, are captured safely.
You might want to ask the retailer taking away your old refrigerator if they are a RAD participant and seek assurances that the unit will not simply be refurbished or shipped to a foreign country. Most major retailers take part in the program, but it isn’t required.
Option 3: Call the city. Whether your municipality will pick up and properly dispose of an old appliance depends on the size of your town’s waste-collection department. Some will, up to a specific size of appliance (A/C units, but not tub freezers), and others run “convenience centers” that process appliances for recycling but rely on you to deliver them.
Call your city or county and ask how to handle any appliances you know are soon to be in your garage, taking up parking space. Checking early might help you avoid a hassle if collection dates are monthly or you have to arrange a truck and a couple of strong backs to help you get the item to a processing site.
What to do with large electronics
We didn’t used to have a major problem with electronics recycling, but now we tend go to through a computer or two every five years and a large-screen TV every 10 years. While mostly made of plastic, large electronics can have a fair amount of recoverable — and valuable —metals inside. The EPA figures that in 1 million cell phones alone there are 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium.
Many electronics sellers, including Best Buy and Staples, will take in your old electronics. Some even pay a small bounty, usually in the form of a store gift card.
We will always want the newest and best in our homes. In terms of conservation, updating appliances can be a solid win for the environment, too. Just make sure that the old heap you are dumping isn’t creating new problems somewhere else.