Back in the day, your old refrigerator wasn't thrown away after a new one was purchased. It was refurbished and resold, again and again, until the doors fell off (then it was sold again). Now? Now they get shredded.
As of late, most refrigerators are no longer repaired after their first service run and are simply destroyed—releasing massive amounts of CFCs from the insulating foam—and the other 55 pounds or so of their remains dumped into a landfill. Now, GE and Home Depot are teaming with the EPA and the Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCA) to lead the charge to recycle these appliances in the greenest way available—by feeding them to this fridge-shredding behemoth.
The process works like this: When the new GE refrigerator you bought at Home Depot arrives at your house, the installation crew carts off your old one. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic or North East regions—specifically, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Delaware, Rhode Island or Vermont—your old fridge will likely be transported to ARCA's Philadelphia facility and deposited into the UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT) system. Standing 40 feet tall, it's capable of digesting as many as 150,000 used fridges annually. Refrigerants and other recoverable components are removed first—including 95% of the insulating foam. The remaining materials are then shredded into streams of uniformly sized granules and sorted for recycling. The foam is then degassed—greenhouse gasses are captured in a closed system—and compressed into pellets which can be used as fuel for other processes.
This procedure not only prevents the free release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere but also produces fine-grade steel, copper, aluminum and plastic, which can be resold to mills and factories at a higher value than scrap that traditional methods create. In all, this method reduces the weight of material the actually makes it into a landfill by 85 percent. ARCA estimates that if the nine million or so refrigerators that Americans throw away each year could be disposed of in this manner, we'd see a CO2 emission savings equivalent to two million cars taken off America's roads.
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