When that faithful refrigerator or freezer finally refuses to cool properly, it is time to think about disposal. But California and federal laws are strict regarding the discarding and recycling of these appliances.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, roughly 9 million refrigerators and freezers, 6 million window air conditioning units and nearly 1 million dehumidifiers are disposed of each year nationwide.
Almost all the components of each unit can be recycled, but the refrigerants used pose an environmental hazard that consumers need to be aware of when it is time to discard these non-working appliances.
California defines the coolants in refrigerators and freezers as “materials that require special handling,” including chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons and other non-CFC replacement refrigerants injected in air conditioning and refrigeration units.
To protect the environment and consumers from the hazardous materials in old refrigerators and freezers, California introduced a law requiring entities that remove materials such as mercury, used oils, PCBs and refrigerants from appliances to be certified by the state starting in 2006.
A consumer must employ a technician to evacuate the gasses safely and certify that is done to state safety standards before discarding the unit. Some utility companies such as California Edison have old appliance recycling incentives, offering a small cash reward for each appliance, as is. This service is not offered in the mountain communities; however, there are other options.
The county transfer stations in the mountain areas of Idyllwild, Pinyon and Anza are operated by CR&R. They do not accept any items containing freon or refrigerants at the transfer stations.
But customers are allowed to transport these items to the Lamb Canyon Landfill for disposal. The facility is located at 16411 Lamb Canyon Road in Beaumont. Or with a certified refrigerant removal, CR&R can accept them as scrap metal at the transfer stations.
Some scrap collectors may pick up these appliances for recycling, but the price of steel and other metals has been depressed and many of these people cannot afford to collect them at this time. Others may charge a small fee to take the units away.
Some of these appliances can be repurposed into planters, poultry egg incubators, worm beds or meat smokers. The internet is full of ways to repurpose old appliances. But the refrigerants need to be removed before they can be converted into something new.
For more information on disposing of appliances, visit the Riverside County Department of Waste Services at www.rcwaste.org/waste-guide/appliance.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.