Improperly disposed of fridges are really harmful to the environment. In the UK, we part with around three million fridges each year. The average lifespan of these appliances is just over a decade – but many of them are closer to two. In the world of fridge technology, this is a long time – and many older fridges contain chemicals that can inflict lasting harm on the natural world. But what exactly are these chemicals and how do they pose a threat? And, more importantly, what can we do to guard against it?
Why are fridges harmful?
Prior to the year 2000, fridges made use of chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. You might recognise these as CFCs and HCFCs: man-made compounds which can be broken down by ultraviolet radiation. When this happens, the substance’s constituent elements (hydrogen, carbon, chlorine and fluorine) are released into the atmosphere. Of particular concern is chlorine, which causes ozone depletion. That in turn allows more ultraviolet radiation to enter into the atmosphere, heating the planet.
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How can I tell whether my fridge contains CFCs?
Fridges come with codes written on the side, detailing the materials used in their manufacture. These will indicate the presence of CFCs. The more common codes include:
R11/R12 – these date from before 1994 and indicate that CFCs are present, respectively in the insulating material or refrigerant.
R22/R141b/R142b/R134a – these date from between 1994 and 2000 and indicate that HCFCs are present.
How can I dispose of my fridge responsibly (and legally?)
In order to dispose of your fridge without impacting the environment or incurring the wrath of the law, please refer to the following options:
Sell/donate the fridge
If the fridge is still in good working order, you may be able to pass it on to a friend or family member. However, the market for second-hand fridges is a little bit on the fraught side as you’ll have to worry about things like transport and persuade the people you’re selling to that the fridge is in good working order.
Arrange for your council to pick it up
Your local council is obliged to collect your fridge when its lifespan has ended. They’ll charge you a small fee but this is usually quite reasonable when compared to the cost and hassle of arranging a sale. If your fridge isn’t worth much money, this is undoubtedly a route worth pursuing. On the other hand…
Arrange for a retailer to pick it up
If you’ve ordered a new fridge delivered to your house, then the retailer might offer to take the old one away for a small fee. This fee will typically be smaller than the one the council would charge – and you won’t have to wait for weeks for them to turn up!
Take it to the tip/recycling centre
If none of the above options appeal, you might consider taking the fridge to your local recycling centre to be disposed of. Be sure to check with them that they deal with fridges before going ahead in order to save yourself a wasted journey.
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