It’s a common scene: When a household gets a new refrigerator, the old one often is sent to the curb for disposal, or banished to the garage to act as a backup device.
“They think that when they just put it on the curb, it just disappears,” says Allen Evans of Kapolei-based company Refrigerant Recycling Inc. “The solution isn’t just simply to toss it in a landfill. One, because there are very toxic materials in major appliances. And second, there is a use for them.”
Realizing the need for the proper disposal of appliances, Refrigerant Recycling worked to develop a system that would break down appliances to separate oil, scrap metals and chemicals in order to recycle some of the items while safely disposing of toxic materials.
In 2010, the company partnered with Hawaii Energy, and together they launched the Trade-up for Cool Cash and Bounty programs, which provide cash incentives to reduce the number of energy-inefficient appliances. Trade-up offers a $125 rebate for those who recycle a working refrigerator and purchase an Energy Star refrigerator. Bounty provides $25 to people who turn in their secondary, old refrigerators or freezers to be recycled.
For his work, Evans was the first recipient of the Hawaii Energy Conservation Award during the annual Hawaii Conservation Conference last month. The award honors an individual or organization for leadership and innovation in energy conservation that has made a positive impact.
“If released into the atmosphere, (refrigerant) destroys our ozone layer,” Evans explains about one of the main chemicals used in refrigerators and air conditioners. “And without ozone, we have increased cases of skin cancer, crop loss, cataracts. It goes on and on and on.” He adds that other materials, including mercury and various oils, in refrigerators could be damaging to human and environmental health if they are not properly handled.
In addition to properly disposing of the chemicals, Refrigerant Recycling makes use of other items found in appliances by recycling the scrap metal.
Currently, the company processes about 500 appliances a day. Through the Trade Up and Bounty programs, Refrigerant Recycling has recycled about 9,500 refrigerators and freezers. According to Hawaii Energy, this equals 300 tons of metals, 8,300 pounds of refrigerant and 9,500 quarts of oil; and 7,828,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and approximately $2,504,960 in electricity costs have been saved. “It is reducing the amount of energy we are consuming,” Evans says. “And these materials are getting recycled. It’s not getting dumped on the side of the road. We are processing the chemicals, processing the scrap metals and processing the oils – all properly.
“We saw that we could really make a difference doing something,” Evans adds. “And we felt good about making an impact globally.”