How are refrigerators recycled?

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Recycling refrigerators responsibly is a crucial step to protecting the environment and fighting global warming. What are the parts inside a fridge and the key steps to recycling this appliance? Read on to find out.

Environmental impact of a fridge that is not recycled

A fridge that is not recycled responsibly generates an average of one tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These appliances contain halocarbons, a major greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

Recycling a refrigerator responsibly is equivalent to:

  • Using a reusable coffee cup 13,870 times
  • A car travelling 4,500 km, i.e., a distance greater than Montréal to Banff (3,735 km)
  • Driving 1,850 km in a truck, as if 42 people were moving from Ahuntsic to Saint Jérôme
  • Riding 1,000 km in a big rig
  • 488 bus rides to work
  • Buying 62 pairs of jeans, i.e., one pair per year from 18 to 80 years old
  • Laundering clothes 96,618 times in hot water
  • Eating 138 beef meals

Fridge components: demystifying their environmental impacts

In order to better understand why it is essential to recycle a fridge, take a look at the elements within that are harmful to the environment.

  • 9 kg of insulating foam
  • 125 g of refrigerant gases
  • 250 g of contaminated oil
  • Up to 3.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent
  • Up to 2 g of mercury
  • Average of 76.5 kg per unit of plastics, metals and glass

When you bring your old fridge to one of GoRecycle’s 300 drop-off points or take advantage of the fridge and freezer removal and recycling service when buying new, you ensure that over 95% of the materials in your appliance are recovered.

Steps in the fridge recycling process: sustainable solutions

Recycling a fridge is done in several different steps. Here are the main steps taken by PureSphera, GoRecycle’s partner, to ensure that refrigerators are recycled responsibly across the province of Quebec.

1. Removing refrigerant gases

The first step to recycling a fridge is to remove its refrigerant gases. In fact, refrigerant gases contain one tonne of CO2. This step drains out the cooling system and the compressor.

2. Shredding the fridge

Shredding a fridge helps separate its 4 main components:

  • insulating foam
  • plastic
  • ferrous metal
  • nonferrous metal

3. Processing the insulating foam

PureSphera’s technological process heats the insulating foam in order to reduce it to a powder and extract all its gas. The powder is then liquefied so that it can be destroyed. Once refrigerant gas is destroyed, its environmental impact is significantly reduced, if not altogether nonexistent.

“(…) foam-blowing agents (…) contain four times the amount of harmful halocarbons”, PureSphera.

4. Separating and recycling recovered materials

The recycling process then involves separating remaining components, i.e., plastic, ferrous metals and nonferrous metals. Plastics are sorted, while other materials are recycled. Recovered materials are sold to specialized recycling companies that will give them a second life.

5. Destroying refrigerant gases

Refrigerant gases extracted during the recycling process are treated and destroyed in accordance with applicable regulations.

Reducing your ecological footprint: the power of recycling your fridge

Now you better understand the fridge components responsible for emitting greenhouse gases (GHG), as well as the various steps involved in recycling this appliance. There is no question that recycling your fridge is a small gesture with a big impact on your ecological footprint. That’s the power of recycling your fridge!

About GoRecycle

GoRecycle is the only organization recognized by RECYC-QUÉBEC that ensures the responsible recycling of cooling appliances in Quebec. We recycle refrigerators, air conditioners, freezers, wine coolers, dehumidifiers and water coolers through over 300 drop-off points in Quebec, and over 90 banner pickup partners with the purchase of a new fridge. GoRecycle is a non-profit organization (NPO).