GE removes temptation to place old appliances at the curb

As the first manufacturer to join the EPA Responsible Appliance Disposal program, GE is encouraging its retailers to take back the old in order to sell the new.

The URT system can recycle 150,000 refrigeration units per year, reducing waste to landfill by 85 percent of weight.

The URT system can recycle 150,000 refrigeration units per year, reducing waste to landfill by 85 percent of weight.

Every once in a while, one of my neighbors will set out some massive appliance at the curb, with the hope that the waste management team eventually will pick it up and take it AWAY. There have been quite a few ruined items appearing and disappearing over the last several weeks, courtesy of Hurricane Irene flooding. Realistically, these hunks of metal and machinery are now better than the computers and monitors that at least half U.S. states now require that we recycle or reuse. But it hasn't been all that convenient to figure out how to do so.

GE Appliances seeks to change that. The company essentially is doubling its recycling services to consumers in 12 states across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions through an expanded partnership with Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCA). The effort fits under the mantle of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program. The program provides for the reclamation and destruction of refrigerant; the disposal of foam; recycling of metals, plastics and glass; and recovery of substances such as polychlorinate biphenyls (PCBs), mercury and used oil.

GE cites research suggesting that 70 percent of consumers would like their old appliances recycled when they buy one; up to 82 percent said they will go out of their way to buy from a manufacturer that recycles. That was all GE really needed to hear in order to expand its recycling options.

Said Mark Shirkness, general manager of distribution services for GE Appliances & Lighting:

"We envision a day when consumers walk into a retail store and are presented with a myriad of new appliance options -- including appliances that are clearly marked with information about the manufacturer's and retailer's recycling practices and participation with the EPA RAD program."

The Home Depot is teaming with GE on this effort, after becoming a RAD member over the summer of 2011. GE has negotiated a relationship with the ARCA facility near Philadelphia, where the appliances collected by its participating retailers can be processed. As a result of that relationship, ARCA has created an advanced processing center that will add about 50 green jobs in the Philadelpia facility. A 40-foot tall system, called URT (the only system of its type in North America), will recycle up to 150,000 refrigerators per year.

Right now, the EPA believes that about 40 percent of the old appliances collected by retailers are resold. The problem with that, of course, is that they are more inefficient and use way more energy than current models ("The green credentials of the common refrigerator"). GE believes the expansion of its program will mean that another 100,000 appliances are recycled annually, double what it currently handles. The states covered by the service are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

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