Recycling Challenge

by Samantha Wittchen

The Challenge: With the imminent roll-out of “Cash for Appliances,” the federal government’s appliance edition of the popular “Cash for Clunkers” program, more Philadelphians may consider an upgrade from that water-hogging washing machine to a hip, front-loading water-miser. But that old washer is worth something, since it’s mostly made up of infinitely recyclable steel. According to the Steel Recycling Institute, recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.

The Solution: With the current state of the economy, Philadelphia’s scrap metal collectors are more tenacious than ever. If you leave your appliance on the curb at night, chances are it’ll be gone by morning. (My personal record for curbside appliance disposal is 15 minutes.) You can also drop your appliance at a Streets Department Sanitation Convenience Center (visit potholes.phila.gov/csstreets for details). If the appliance is still functional, consider donating it to an organization that needs it—they may even pick it up. If you’re willing to do a bit more work, you might be able to make a buck or two. Scrap metal dealers often pay money for ferrous appliances. (“Ferrous” means the appliance contains iron; if a magnet will stick to it, it’s ferrous.) S.D. Richman Sons, located in Port Richmond (2435 Wheatsheaf Ln., 215-535-5100), allows regular passenger vehicles into their facility, so they’re a good option for consumers. 

The Eco-Aware Consumer: The good news is that about 75 percent of a typical household appliance is recycled steel. This means that you don’t have to work very hard to buy a new appliance featuring recycled content. To achieve extra energy savings, buy Energy Star-rated appliances.