Recycling Challenge: Refrigerators

The Issue: Disposing of your old fridge

The Challenge: The refrigerator that went perfectly with the brown and gold color scheme of your 1976 kitchen just doesn’t cut it in a stainless steel world. Fortunately, the average vintage fridge (a decade or more old) contains 120 pounds of recyclable steel. But, depending on the year it was manufactured, its refrigerant could contain harmful ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). So, it’s important that the refrigerant is removed from the unit properly before disposal. Besides the environmental benefits of proper disposal, it’s just plain illegal to release CFCs into the atmosphere.

The Solution: If you’re replacing your refrigerator with a new energy-efficient model, ask if the appliance retailer will pick up and recycle your old fridge when they deliver the new one.

If that’s not an option, for a limited time, PECO will pick up your old, inefficient refrigerator through the PECO Smart Appliance Recycling Program. The fridge must be between 10 and 30 cubic feet in size, and it must be empty and working at the time of pick-up. As an added bonus, they’ll give you $35 for the old appliance. And, if you happen to have a spare air conditioner lying around, they’ll take that off your hands as well (and give you $25 for it). Participation is first-come, first-serve, and they’ll continue the program until funding runs out. You can participate by visiting

If you miss out on the PECO deal, there are a few other places that will take your refrigerator. Northeast Philadelphia-based Safe Disposal (7333 Milnor St., 215-332-3134) and Conshohocken-based Recycle Metals Corporation (407 Alan Wood Rd., 610-838-5553) will remove the refrigerant and recycle the unit. Be prepared to pay a small disposal fee.

The Eco-Aware Consumer: When buying a new refrigerator, look for the big yellow EnergyGuide label on the unit. It will tell you how much energy it uses, and if it qualifies for Energy Star. Purchase an Energy Star-qualified model to save the most on your electric bills. Additionally, buy the right size unit for your household so you’re not using energy to cool more cubic feet than you need. Consider a refrigerator with a top-mounted freezer—it’ll use 10 to 25 percent less energy than its bottom-mount or side-by-side counterparts. Forgo the icemaker and save 14 to 20 percent on energy use.

In response to July's Recycling Challenge (Plastics No. 3-7), reader Joe Rosato wrote: "Collingswood, NJ, has a large dumpster by the Police Station and in the Bike Share driveway on Atlantic Ave. that accepts plastics No. 3-7.  Easy drop offs. No hassles." Thanks Joe!

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