How to Safely Dispose of Appliances with Refrigerant

A major household appliance doesn’t last forever. At some point you will want to replace it, whether from old age and poor performance, or because you want the modern features and improved efficiency of the newer models. So what do you do with an old appliance that contains refrigerant?

Why You Should Safely Dispose of Appliances with Refrigerant?

Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers contain a number of toxic chemicals and hazardous substances that are detrimental to the environment and to human health. These hazards include:

  • Refrigerant. Before 1995, CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) was commonly used in refrigerators and freezers. It is commonly known by the DuPont brand name Freon. Many window air-conditioners and dehumidifiers manufactured before 2010 contain HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon). Both are ozone depleting substances.  CFC and HCFC refrigerants are also powerful greenhouse gases. Most refrigerators and freezers manufactured since 1995, and window air-conditioners and dehumidifiers since 2010, contain a greener alternative called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). However, HFCs are recognized as still having ozone depleting potential, as well as global warming potential.
  • Foam. Before 2005, the foam insulation used in refrigerators and freezers contained an ozone depleting substance. Since 2005, these appliances now use foam blowing agents that are ozone-friendly.
  • Hazardous substances. Appliances can also contain hazardous substances such as used oil, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Some chest freezers and refrigerators included mercury in their relays and switches before 2000, and PCB capacitors exist in appliances manufactured before 1979. These hazards should be handled by facilities that can safely remove them before shredding and recycling the appliance.

Appliance Disposal Steps

  1. Assess the condition of your appliance. This is going to determine your removal choices. Check the following:
  • Age. Many appliances have a lifespan of about 10 to 20 years. Those made after the 1970s or 1980s are stamped with serial numbers to help you track down their manufacturing date.
  • Performance. Check for abnormal noises, excessive vibrations, or any other non-optimum performance issues. Decide if the appliance is in good working order, needs minor repairs, or is in poor condition.
  • Efficiency. Have your power bills been going up with no explanation? Are your lights flickering? Older appliances are less energy efficient, and can malfunction, resulting in unsafe power surges.
  • Mold and mildew. Look for black spots and unpleasant odors.
  • Insect infestation. Thoroughly check the outside and inside of the appliance, paying special attention to cracks and crevices for signs of insect activity. Look for egg cases, droppings, and shed skins.
  1. Donate your appliance to charity. If your appliance is under 10 years old, and in good working condition, donate it to a local charity, such as Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army. Some charities offer pick-up, or you could drop it off yourself.
  2. Municipal pick-up for recycling. When your appliance is not functioning properly and beyond repair, or is moldy or infested with insects, recycling is your best option. Many cities provide appliance recycling programs, and even have curbside pick-up service. Call your local solid waste or sanitation department or visit their website to see what services they offer, and what their recycling guidelines are.

It’s common for municipalities to require refrigerant removal by a certified technician (Section 608 of the Clean Air Act) before they’ll pick up a refrigerated appliance from the curb. Some will even provide a list of local certified technicians or companies that can remove and dispose of your refrigerant per EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards. The technician should supply you with the proper documentation needed for disposal of your appliance. Often a sticker or tag is required to be placed on the appliance stating that a certified technician has safely removed the refrigerant.

  1. Contact your electricity provider. Some utilities offer an appliance recycling program, known as a bounty program. The utility pays the appliance owner a “bounty” to have his old refrigerated appliance picked up by a recycler. The appliances might have to meet certain requirements (e.g. in good working order, a certain age or size). Rebates and discounts towards new Energy Star models are available with some programs. Be sure to ask if you’re responsible for removing the refrigerant.
  2. Check with a retail store. Many appliance retail stores will pick up and recycle or donate your old appliance when you purchase a new one. They’ll even take care of the refrigerant removal if needed (ask them first). Some charge a fee for the service. You might also be able to drop off your old appliance at certain retail stores if they don’t do pick-up. 
  3. Contact a scrap metal dealer. A great number of scrap metal dealers will pick up the old appliance for free or for a small fee. Or you could drop off the appliance yourself and perhaps get paid for the recyclable materials. Ask the scrap dealer whether he can remove any refrigerant or if you need to do it.
  4. Hire a junk removal service. These services charge a fee for taking away your appliance for donation, recycling, or disposal in a landfill. Many will retrieve the appliance from your attic, basement, garage, or backyard so you don’t have to move it to the curb. Usually they don’t require the refrigerant removed from appliances.
  5. Recycling facilities. You can drop off appliances directly to municipal recycling facilities for free if you are a city resident and have a utility bill showing payment for garbage services. Check with the facility, but some won’t accept appliances with refrigerant, and you’ll have to show documentation that it has been removed. Others will remove the refrigerant for you for a fee.
  6. Transfer stations. Many transfer stations offer free drop-off for city residents with proof of payment for garbage services. If they don’t accept appliances with refrigerant, they’ll want to see removal documentation.
  7. Landfills. Deliver the appliance yourself to the local landfill. Some landfills charge residents for disposal. You’ll need your utility bill and sometimes another proof of residence. Some landfills will remove the refrigerant from appliances for a fee, while others want proof of removal.

Resources for Recycling

Here is some appliance disposal and recycling information for Dallas, San Antonio, and San Marcos.

  • Dallas bulky trash collection service for curbside pick-up of specific appliances. Go to the What Goes in Recycle ‘Ben’ section, type in the appliance (e.g. refrigerator), and you’ll be told how to recycle or dispose of it. You may have to call for more information if the appliance isn’t listed.
  • Dallas’s McCommas Bluff Landfill and transfer stations.
  • San Antonio’s list of organizations for appliance donations, and its bulky item collection services. You can also drop off appliances at these locations.
  • San Marcos’s bulk pickup services and Green Guy Recycling information.

North America Recycling Search

Earth911 — useful site for finding recycling facilities in your zip code for many different items.

For the very best in repair and maintenance of your major appliances, call the experts at C&W Appliance Service at (855) 358-1496 or submit our online service request form for prompt, reliable service.

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