The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is always on the lookout for means to reduce the impact of today’s technologies on the environment. One initiative they have developed is the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program.
RAD is a voluntary program that aims to reduce the volume of refrigerator waste material that is recycled, and thus decrease the amount that ends up in the landfill. Not only do leftover fridge freezer parts take up landfill space, improper recycling leads to the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gas emission (GFG) and release of Ozone depleting substances (ODS).
The United States discards approximately nine million refrigerators each year. While currently the vast majority of these have the metal sheeting recycled, for most unit insulating foam – and other materials – end up in a landfill. The RAD program aims to recycle not only the metal, but these other components also.
In order to be eligible to participate in the EPA Responsible Appliance Disposal program, the following goals must be met:
- Metals, glass and plastics are all recycled
- PCBs, used oil and mercury must be recovered and properly managed
- Refrigerants must be recovered from the appliance and either reclaimed or properly destroyed
- Rigid polyurethane foam should be recovered for high temperature incineration, or blowing agents in the foam must be destroyed or reclaimed
RAD offers substantial climate benefits over traditional refrigerator disposal strategies. HCFCs, CFCs, and HFCs used as refrigerants are all very potent GHGs. Recovering these refrigerants rather than releasing them into the atmosphere can yield significant benefits in efforts to combat global warming.
Additionally, the recycling of the physical materials used to build a refrigerator saves not only landfill space, but also reduces greenhouse emission through reducing the need to create these materials from scratch.
ARCA Inc. (Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc.) is one firm that is involved with the RAD program. They have collaborated with GE appliances – the manufacturer of well known brands such as GE Profile and GE Monogram – to provide refrigerator-recycling centers in several states that comply with the RAD goals.
ARCA utilizes URT (UNTHA Recycling Technology) which is capable of recovering refrigerator insulation foam in compliance with the EPA’s RAD requirements. Their technologies also comply with the European WEEE Directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive) and the EU’s RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive).
The claims made about the benefits of these technologies are substantial. If all the foam from disposed US refrigerators were recycled using these technologies, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 2.4 million cars off the road. Estimates are that GE refrigerators recycled in this manner will have a landfill waste footprint 85% smaller by weight than in the past.