For those who want to be environmentally aware, data is important including old appliances disposal facts to know.
This is because, along with the household trash and some occasional furniture, old appliances are the largest and most impactful items homeowners and renters dispose of on a regular basis.
Old Appliances Disposal and the Waste Stream
Municipal Solid Waste, or MSW, is essentially all the waste - garbage, trash and debris - generated by American households. More specifically, MSW is made up of various items consumers throw away after they are used. These are items such as bottles and corrugated boxes, food, grass clippings, sofas, computers, tires and major appliances.
Major appliances or white goods include items such as refrigerators, washing machines and water heaters. And appliances make up a significant portion of municipal solid waste in the U.S.
According to information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
“In 2017, generation was 5.2 million tons, or 1.9 percent of total MSW generation. While the number of units of appliances is higher than previous years, the average weight per unit is lower. Ferrous metals (steel and iron) are the predominant materials in major appliances, but different metals, plastics, glass and other materials are also present.
Data on the recovery of ferrous metals from major appliances are from a survey conducted by the Steel Recycling Institute. This survey estimates the recovery of ferrous metals from shredded appliances to be 3.1 million tons in 2017, leaving 2.1 million tons of appliances to be landfilled. Major appliances are not accepted at combustion facilities with energy recovery.”
How many appliances have entered the waste stream, and how much of these end up getting recycled versus going to a landfill? Here’s a chart from the EPA detailing those numbers:
2000-2017 Data on Major Appliances in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
2000 2005 2010 2015 2016 2017
Generated 3,640 3,610 4,020 4,860 5,030 5,160
Recycled 2,000 2,420 2,610 3,000 3,060 3,110
Landfilled 1,640 1,190 1,410 1,860 1,970 2,050
Sources: Appliance Manufacturer Market Profile, Appliance Manufacturer Shipments Forecasts, Appliance Statistical Review and Steel Recycling Institute.
The data reveals that, as of 2017, the generation of durable goods in MSW was 57.1 million tons, which is 21.4 percent of total MSW generation. During that year, almost 11 million tons of durable goods were recycled making up a little less than a 19 percent recycling rate.
In addition, over 37 million tons ended up in landfills, which is almost 30 percent of the total amount of material going into the landfills in 2017.
For example, the EPA estimates that almost 10 million refrigerators are thrown away in the U.S. every year. In other words, we throw out a lot of appliances every year, but only 60 percent of them get recycled.
What You Need to Know About Old Appliances Disposal
On the consumer end, appliance disposal can be fairly simple and straightforward, especially if you have a professional team like Junk King handle it for you. But the actual “disposal” part - the recycling end of the process - is a bit more complicated.
For example, according to a post at Recycle Nation, here is a breakdown of the refrigerator recycling process:
- The refrigerator unit is cataloged by recording the unit number and utility information.
- A core sample is conducted by drilling a 1-inch hole on the unit’s side to detect the type of insulation present (most likely foam).
- The Freon, a liquid or gaseous fluorocarbon used as a refrigerant, is removed, along with the oils from the compressor. These oils are usually heated to distill the refrigerant, which is then shipped to a qualified facility that will handle with care. Such oils can be reused in some industrial equipment.
- Next, the capacitors that are suspected of containing PCBs are removed and shipped for destruction by a registered hazardous waste incinerator.
- The interior shelves, drawers and storage containers are removed. These are then harvested for tempered glass, plastic and metal.
- The chassis, or frame, is cut into pieces. The metal, plastic and foam are harvested and separated.
- The foam is sealed inside bags, and then shipped off to an incinerator.
A similar process is required for freezers and window air conditioning units. Appliances such as washers and dryers, microwaves, dishwashers and stoves may not have as many steps, but the recycling process is still complex.
And this doesn’t take into account the increasing amount of onboard electronics that are built into our modern appliances. A washer or dryer from 1995 probably did not have any electronics to speak of, but not today.
We are in the upward curve of a tidal wave of smart appliances coming into homes. A smart appliance is a device that you connect to your smartphone or tablet for better control, convenience, and information. These Wi Fi enabled machines allow for a variety of convenience and remote operation features, and contain vastly more electronics than comparable machines just 10 or 15 years ago.
Smart appliances can include refrigerators, stoves and ovens, kitchen cooktops, dishwashers, dryers and clothes washers. And all of the high tech electronics, circuit boards and digital components contain materials that can be hazardous once they need to be disposed of. At that stage they become e-waste.
What is e-waste? According to the CalRecycle website,
“E-waste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their "useful life." Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled.
Unwanted electronic devices should be reused or recycled. Computers, monitors, televisions and other electronic equipment should NOT be disposed of with regular garbage; in fact, this is illegal in California. Functioning electronics can be sold or donated thereby prolonging their useful life. Nonfunctioning electronics that cannot be repaired should be recycled by an organization qualified to do so.”
The bottom line for old appliances disposal is that recycling is the best and only good option for non-working machines.
The Best Option for Old Appliances Disposal
Junk King is proud to be North America’s greenest junk removal service. We pioneered recycling based junk removal in 2005 and have been going greener ever since. We sort each and every job for metals, e-waste, paper, household goods, textiles, furniture and appliances, in our recycling warehouses.
But “going green” also means we donate, re-purpose, and reuse everything we can. We also run many of our trucks run on biodiesel, which is a domestically produced fuel made from more environmentally friendly non-petroleum, renewable resources.
Are you ready to dispose of those old appliances? It’s can be as simple as 1, 2, 3!
You can make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865). Our professional and insured junk removal team will come to your home and we’ll call 15 minutes before we arrive on site. Once there we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your junk takes up in our truck, with no hidden fees.