If you want to enhance your energy efficiency portfolio while providing added public benefits with a green twist, an appliance recycling program may be the answer. Generating proven energy savings, appliance recycling and change-out programs are popular with utilities and customers alike for reducing energy consumption through cost-effective measures.
But with the word “recycling” often being used loosely to include reselling an older model appliance for continued use or simply scrapping it for the value of the metal, what is the most effective solution for permanently removing working refrigerators and freezers from service while managing the environmentally harmful substances they contain?
Industry leaders Central Hudson Gas & Electric (Central Hudson) and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) in New York, as well as Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) in Maryland, are answering this question for their customers through an innovative technological approach provided by Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. (ARCA).
These four electric utilities are the first in the U.S. to employ the UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT) materials recovery system, European equipment that recovers the environmentally damaging blowing agents in the rigid polyurethane foam insulation in refrigerators and freezers. No other system like this is available in the United States today.
While 90 percent of refrigerators in the U.S. eventually are shredded for their metal, the shredding process releases substantial amounts of greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substances into the atmosphere, and the remaining foam and other materials typically go to a landfill. The URT system not only captures the blowing agents from the foam insulation for destruction in an approved waste incinerator, it also separates other appliance materials for enhanced recycling capabilities. The URT system reduces the refrigerators and freezers into streams of fine granules of recoverable materials, including copper, aluminum, steel, plastics, and de-gassed foam pellets. This results in a more thorough separation of materials that enables a higher rate of recycling for each byproduct type. Additionally, the amount of waste taken to the landfill when refrigerators and freezers are recycled is drastically reduced through the URT process.
BGE, Central Hudson, LIPA and SMECO have an eye on the future of their appliance recycling programs as manufacturers introduce new chemicals as blowing agents in polyurethane foam. The URT materials recovery system is also able to capture flammable hydrocarbons such as cyclopentane, which is being introduced by U.S. manufacturers in the production of new refrigerators and freezers.
In addition to capturing the harmful greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substances in foam insulation, ARCA processes each appliance to recover and properly manage refrigerants, PCB-containing capacitors, mercury-containing components and all other environmentally damaging substances and materials found in old appliances.
Utilities at the forefront of appliance recycling programs know that saving energy and protecting the environment go hand in hand. With the leading-edge technology of the URT system as a key component of their appliance recycling programs, BGE, Central Hudson, LIPA and SMECO are setting the standard for utility recycling programs in the Northeast.
Bruce Wall designs and helps implement energy efficiency programs for electric utility companies and currently oversees program conceptualization, cost-benefit analyses and evaluation at ARCA. During his time at ARCA, Wall has developed new business opportunities with electric utilities, appliance retailers, manufacturers and municipalities, as well as with public and multifamily housing markets.