Cash for….Refrigerators


refrigeratorPrograms that allow homeowners to trade in their old refrigerators and scoop up a rebate – a sort of “cash for clunkers” system for the fridge – are spreading quickly across the country.

Last week, New Jersey began a statewide program that offers residents a $30 rebate by recycling eligible refrigerators or freezers. Old refrigerators and freezers in Vermont also fetch $30, under a program begun last month.

Pickup is free in both states.

National Grid began a similar program in June, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

These programs target old refrigerators and freezers – the type often found in garages and basements – because they use substantially more electricity than those built after the introduction of federal efficiency standards.

fridge-program1Sam Sirkin, the program development manager of Jaco Environmental, a refrigerator and freezer recycler, said that his company now works with 45 utilities in 21 states, up from about 15 utilities in 10 states three years ago.

The recent flurry of new programs in New England stems in part from the recent introducton of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a Northeastern program that caps greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to combat climate change, as well as from energy efficiency initiatives in individual states, according to Mr. Sirkin.

Utilities commonly estimate that homeowners can save up to $150 a year on their electricity bill by dumping their old refrigerator or freezer. Old refrigerators, made prior to 1990, also use three times as much electricity as new ones, the utilities say. In addition, refrigerators made before the mid-1990s may also emit ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons.

“Avoiding the release of the C.F.C.’s in fridges captures five tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per fridge, and just removing the old refrigerator or freezer from the grid saves another two to five tons of carbon dioxide due to energy savings,” said Mr. Sirkin.

As part of the Vermont program, Jaco Environmental will reuse about 95 percent of the appliances’ contents, including foam insulation (which is burned, and its heat used to generate electricity), according to Mr. Sirkin. Steel and plastic may end up in new products like cars or refrigerators, and the tempered glass shelving may wind up in asphalt or helping to aerate some potting soils.

“This program saves energy, saves money both for the utility and the consumer, and also saves the environment,” said Carol Tucker, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Her utility offers a low income refrigerator exchange program in addition to a standard refrigerator turn-in and recycle program.

{Greeninc-NY Times/ Newscenter}