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What Happens After You Toss Those Old Appliances?

With the pace of life and priorities, it’s hard to be concerned with where your avocado green refrigerator has been carted off to.  For many, as long as the new appliance works and there is no longer interference with the course of your day, who cares?

It all comes down to how you disposed of your junk appliance.  If you had it properly disassembled and disposed of, chances are high that you are not causing any severe risk to the environment.  There is also the good possibility that it was restored and is now bringing value to someone else’s life.  You should know what happens after you chuck an appliance just to be sure that you aren’t causing risks to human health or the environment.


Often, appliances that are in good working condition are restored and resold.  This could be through resale shops, appliance repair stores or individual peddlers.  There are two major downsides to this though.  First off, older appliances are electricity guzzlers and should be “put down” properly in order to conserve energy.  Also, if your appliance is sold overseas, the chances that it will eventually be disposed of properly to protect others and the environment from harm are extremely low.


Working appliances CAN be donated to domestic programs that help disadvantaged people.  They can either use the refurbished item itself or your appliance might yield healthy parts for other models that will go to several different families.  Habitat ReStores, The Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul and the American Council of the Blind run programs like these.  A quick internet search should also find any community projects, churches or companies near you that participate in appliance donation programs.

Photo Courtesy of Riverside County Department of Waste Resources


Appliance recycling usually consists of removing hazardous materials/refrigerants and then systematically shredding the gutted appliance.  You can actually recycle most of the parts in your refrigerator or freezer.  Glass shelves, the metal cabinet and the plastic liner are all recyclables.  You should be hiring a professional or find a program that properly removes and recycles the refrigerant, oil in the compressor and the blowing agent secured in foam insulation.

By simply tossing the appliance or having someone dispose improperly of the appliance, metals are usually separated and recycled but the glass, plastic and hazardous foam are chucked into a landfill.  Since there are no requirements for how to dispose of the foam, the blowing agent is released during the shredding process and contributes it’s hazardous effect on the ozone and global climate.

Check with your village or town hall to see what appliance recycling programs are available or contact Earth911.  These programs will help contain and properly dispose and/or recycle those hazardous materials and foam agents.


When you bypass those other options and put your appliance straight into trash, you increase the risk of contamination.  Some landfills will simply leave the appliance intact and not remove any hazardous materials, which allows the possibility for it to leak into soil and groundwater.  Many landfills will have a technician remove hazards such as oil and refrigerant but will leave the foam intact.  Once the appliance is shredded, the harmful blowing agent is then released.  To be completely safe, you should always try to recycle or donate your junk appliances.

Always ask how a program or company is disposing of your appliance.  If you ever suspect an individual or company is not disposing of appliances in the correct way or may be doing something illegally, file an anonymous complaint with the EPA.

Are There Any Other Places To Donate Appliances Or Things You Can Do With Them?  Let Me Know In The Comments Below!

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