Where do Fridges go to die?
The topic of refrigeration has been the subject of much debate over recent years, pushed into the forefront by the European government, particularly in the implementation of new legislation to protect the environment from harmful gasses. There has also been much said about the rules on disposing of old refrigerators, private and commercial. Whether you are replacing a single fridge from your kitchen at home or an entire commercial installation, the question of just what you are going to do with the old kit is one that is important to consider from the outset. Failing to follow the rules can be costly, even for the private household.
But a question that we rarely ask is just what happens once our refrigerator has left our hands and passed into the care of an authorised disposal agent. Environmentally dangerous gasses aside, there is also the question of just what happens to all the metal, plastic and other elements that make up a complete appliance.
Advanced processes are in place in many countries that allow for the harvesting and recycling or repurposing of an incredible proportion of the components.
The first stage of the process typically involves removing all gasses from the system and storing them securely for safe disposal. The gasses are then either incinerated at extremely high temperatures or, occasionally, filtered. The latter, however, is a very costly method and therefore significantly less popular.
With the gasses safely disposed of, the focus can then move to the compressor oil and capacitors.
The next step is to examine the insulation foam to determine whether there are any CFC’s. It is then either gathered and packaged for reuse if clear, or safely sealed in plastic bags for incineration if not.
The interior shelving and storage bins are then removed in order to harvest tempered glass, plastic, and metal. Given that plastic can be recycled up to seven times in its useful life, and even used for energy after that, it is easy to see why we should not neglect to reclaim this key material. Whilst not offering quite the same lifecycle, glass and metal are still strong candidates for recycling.
Finally, the chassis is cut up and the remaining metal, plastic and foam is harvested.
The exact process does of course depend on where in the world you happen to reside. In the UK, a company called Sims Recycling Solutions operates two of the world’s most advanced fridge recycling plants, including the largest in the world, capable of recycling 1 million refrigerators each year. Based in Newport, Wales and Billingham, County Durham, they provide a national service to producer compliance schemes, retailers and businesses.
They have prepared a fascinating video of just what happens once your used fridge arrives at their site.
For the majority of private individuals and business owners, disposing of your old refrigeration units is mission accomplished. For others, this is just the beginning. So next time you get rid of a fridge, why not spare a thought for what happens next. After all, the more you know about such things, the more you can do to help protect our precious planet.