GE boasts 100,000 recycled refrigerators, and counting

General Electric's facility for taking apart discarded refrigerators and freezers has helped divert about 5.5 million pounds of material from North American landfills.

I've written plenty about the disposal hazards related to getting rid of old desktops, storage devices and other information technology -- a topic that gets filed under the heading of electronic waste (aka e-waste).

While refrigerators and freezers live much longer in our homes, they likewise present a serious disposal and recycling challenge when homeowners set them out curbside as part of municipal waste streams. Plus, while not every home necessarily has a computer, refrigerators are one of the most common appliances in U.S. households.

About a year ago, GE announced a partnership with Appliance Recycling Centers of America to address that issue and it has already managed to process more than 100,000 refrigerators or freezers with its UNTHA Recycling Technology (pictured below).


The system (which stands 40 feet high) can recover up to 95 percent of the insulating foam from these old appliances.

So far, about 89 percent of the material collected from the first 100,000 refrigerators and freezers processed with the system has been used for new products; another 11 percent is going toward applications in cement manufacturing, according to GE.

There's a long way to go: an estimated 9 million refrigerators are disposed of annually, and very few of them are recycled for their insulating foam. (Close to 90 percent of them DO have the metal extracted for other uses.) Some more statistics can be found in the infographic below.

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