GE Recycles 100,000 Refrigerators Using Emissions-Busting Technology

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Large appliances, like refrigerators, air conditioners, and freezers are considered hazardous because they contain refrigerants that can contaminate our air, water, and soil. These “white goods” are perfectly safe to use at home, of course, but when it comes time for them to be replaced, their chemical components make it hard to dispose of them safely.

Recycling of white goods is a difficult process, as they must be broken down carefully to conserve reuseable parts while preventing the release of harmful substances. Through a partnership with Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCA), GE has helped to support North America’s only UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT) System. This revolutionary technology has made it possible for GE to process 100,000 refrigerators, keeping an estimated 5.5 million pounds of refrigerator and freezer material out of U.S. landfills.

GE-refrigerator recycling

Image via GE

According to GE, approximately nine million refrigerators are disposed of annually in the U.S. Most of these are simply shredded for their metal, while the remaining 47 pounds of foam and insulation end up in a landfill. Together with ARCA and the EPA, GE has helped make it easier for more Americans to enjoy complete recycling through the URT system.

The URT is a 40-foot-tall machine designed to gobble up large items, reducing them to their smallest components in short order. Instead of taking hours to disassemble the appliances, carefully removing the ozone-depleting refrigerants, PCBs, mercury and oil that may be lurking inside, the URT system can process an entire refrigerator in about a minute flat. In that short time, the URT recovers around 95 percent of the insulating foam in refrigerators and freezers, 100 percent of which is then reused in new products or as fuel.

When consumers in certain states purchase a new appliance from a participating retailer, GE arranges for the old unit to be taken away when the new one is delivered. The old unit is then be transported to Philadelphia-based for proper recycling. To find out if you live in a participating state, visit

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog