Refrigerator Recycling: The New "Cash for Clunkers"

The much-heralded "Cash for Clunkers" or CARS program might be out of money just a week after its launch, but a similar program targeting old refrigerators is steadily growing. According to Sam Sirkin, program development manager for refrigerator and freezer recylcer Jaco Environmental, the number of utilities his company works with has tripled in the last three years, and the numbers of states has more than doubled.

At the end of July, New Jersey launched its refrigerator recycling initiative as part of its Clean Energy Program. Under the program, old (but working) refrigerators and freezers are eligible for a $30 rebate and free pickup. Similar programs exist in Vermont, Rhode Island, and Massachussets. These programs have arisen in part because of the Northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a localized bill in the New England area that caps greenhouse gas emissions in order to combat climate change. Individual states also have energy efficiency programs which have given rise to similar initiatives.

Refrigerator recycling programs target older refrigerators and freezers that were produced before federal efficiency standards were introduced. These are often found in garages and basements and are used mainly for beverages or additional storage. Turning these appliances over to a refrigerator and freezer recylcer can not only net homeowners a small rebate but can also save them up to $150 a year on energy costs.

Recyclers like Jaco Environmental reuse up to 95 percent of the appliance's parts. Foam insulation is burned to generate electricity from its heat; tempered glass from the shelves is used in asphalt; and steel and plastic is used in the production of new refrigerators, as well as other products like cars.

All in all, refrigerator recycling programs like those in New England are win-win-win: they save money, energy, and the environment.

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