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 up of 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. If not, you’ll need to contact a professional for Freon removal.
  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 that is less than five years old, consider donating it. Habitat for Humanity 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.
  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 far too heavy for one person to carry.

Find an organization near you that accepts large appliances using our Recycling Locator.

Why Recycle Large Appliances

  • Steel (the most recycled material in the U.S.) makes up 75 percent of the average appliance, and 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 are released 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.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Large Appliances Recycling Questions

Can I recycle large electronics in my curbside recycling program?

Large appliances are often featured 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 market. Refrigerators and air conditioners require the removal of Freon, which involves a special permit. 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. On the flip side, you may have to pay to recycle appliances with Freon because of the costs involved in Freon removal.

Do appliance manufacturers offer recycling?

The EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program has developed a nationwide recycling program for appliances. As of 2017, BSH Home Appliances and General Electric are the only manufacturers to partner on this program. No other manufacturers have public-facing recycling programs.

Do utility companies offer appliance recycling?

This depends on your local utility company, but many offer incentives to get energy-draining appliances out of commission. Many utility companies are part of the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program.

What is a white good?

“White good” is the industry term for appliances, which dates back to the United Kingdom. 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 term by The Chemours Company; it’s used for fluorocarbons in air conditioners, freezers, and refrigerators. This chemical helps cool the air in these appliances.

Due to the Montreal Protocol, any appliances manufactured after 2003 must use a different refrigerant. However, you’re likely looking to recycle an appliance manufactured before then, so Freon removal is something you may need to take into account. 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 remove any steel, and eddy currents will remove any nonferrous metals (like aluminum). The remaining components, tempered glass, and plastics are then separated and sold to manufacturers.

Are there any states that require recycling of large appliances?

As of 2017, 22 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.

Additional Reading

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