How to Recycle Large Appliances

One of the easiest ways to save energy around the house is by purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Be sure to recycle your old ones, though, because they’re mostly made of easily recyclable metal.

Large Appliances Recycling Preparation

  1. Unplug your appliance for several days before recycling it to let it cool down.
  2. In the case of older air conditioners, freezers, and refrigerators, you’ll need to confirm whether the recycler removes Freon, the coolant used in most appliances. If not, you’ll need to contact a professional to do the Freon removal before recycling.
  3. If you bought a new appliance and it’s being delivered, ask the company if it will haul away your old appliance. In many cases, the truck will accept multiple appliances for recycling even if only one is being delivered.
  4. If you’re getting rid of a still-working product, consider donating it. Habitat for Humanity, for example, operates ReStore locations throughout the U.S. that sell building supplies to raise money for new houses, and they will often accept newer, working appliances. Sopme Goodwill and the Salvation Army locations also accept large appliances.
  5. Tape any doors with masking or duct tape so they don’t fly open during transport.
  6. If you need to transport the appliance to the curb or a truck, use a dolly. Large appliances are too heavy for one person to carry.

Find an organization near you that accepts large appliances using Eartb911’s Recycling Locator.

Why Recycle Large Appliances

  • Steel, which is the most recycled material in the U.S., makes up 75 percent of the average appliance. Home appliances account for 10 percent of steel recycled in the U.S. each year.
  • Refrigerators and air conditioners use fluorocarbons to chill air, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a leading contributor to ozone depletion. CFCs, including Freon, can escape from a trashed refrigerator but will be safely processed by a recycler.
  • Many utility companies will provide you with a credit to buy a new appliance and recycle the old one, not to mention the money you’ll save on your monthly bill.’
  • Want to understand the environmental benefits of recycling your appliances? The Environmental Protection Agency provides a calculator that tells you the environmental impact of disposing of an appliance responsibly.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Large Appliances Recycling Questions

Can I recycle large electronics in my curbside recycling program?

Generally, no. Large appliances are often collected in bulky waste collection programs, a special type of curbside recycling. You’ll need to schedule this collection with your local solid waste office, and specify what type of appliance you have to see if there are any preparation requirements.

Are any large appliances more or less valuable to recycle?

Yes. The general rule is that a valuable appliance will contain mostly metal and no hazardous material. Today’s dishwashers are largely made up of plastic, reducing their recycling value.

Refrigerators and air conditioners require the removal of Freon, which involves a special permit — you should not try to do this at home and be sure to check that a recycler is permitted to handle Freon.

Washers and dryers are among the most valuable appliances because of their weight and mostly metal construction, but this also means they are among the toughest to transport for recycling.

Can I make money recycling large appliances?

Yes, depending on the appliance. If you have a truck and you’re willing to drive your appliance to a scrap metal recycler, you could make $20 or more per appliance. On the other hand, you may have to pay to recycle appliances with Freon because of the costs involved in Freon removal, so factor that pricing into your business plan.

Do appliance manufacturers offer recycling?

The EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program has developed a nationwide recycling program for appliances. You can find a list of the 51 participating manufacturers, utilities, and appliance retailers here. As of 2024, Electrolux and General Electric are the only manufacturers to participate in this program.

These appliance makers offer recycling services or links to local collection options:

Hisense (Sharp)
Insignia, Best Buy’s private label brand, accepts drop-offs for free, but charges $59.99 for recycling with a purchase and $199.99 without a new appliance purchase

Do utility companies offer appliance recycling?

Sometimes. Your local utility company may offer recycling, and many offer incentives to get energy-draining appliances out of commission. Several dozen utility companies are part of the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program.

What is a white good?

“White good” is the industry term for appliances. In the 20th century, most manufactured appliances were made of steel coated in white, hence the name. If you ever see white goods in a recycling context, it means appliances.

What is Freon and why must it be removed?

Freon is a trademarked chlorofluorocarbon, also known as HCFC-22 and hydrofluorcarbon 22, distributed by The Chemours Company; it’s used as a coolant in air conditioners, freezers, and refrigerators.

As a result of the Montreal Protocol, which was adopted by all the nations in the world to prevent the loss of the ozone layer in the atmosphere, any appliances manufactured after 2003 must use an ozone-safe refrigerant. However, Freon was banned only in 2020, so you’re if you want to recycle an appliance manufactured before then, Freon removal is is a necessary step in the process. It’s illegal to remove Freon yourself, and many scrap recyclers will require you to have it removed before recycling appliances.

How are large appliances recycled?

The first step is to remove any hazardous materials like mercury switches or refrigerants; these materials are recovered and recycled. Then, the appliance is shredded into tiny pieces, after which magnets will separate the steel and eddy currents will remove any nonferrous metals, such as aluminum. The remaining components, including tempered glass and plastics, are then separated and sold .

Are there any states that require recycling of large appliances?

Twenty-two states have banned appliances from landfills, including California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. Luckily, these laws mean it’s much easier to find appliance recycling options in these states.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated in February 2024.

Additional Reading

Help others recycle large appliances by sharing this on Pinterest.

Trying to recycle your fridge? Stove? Dishwasher? Recycle large appliances in your area using the Earth911 recycling search.