GE Appliances & Lighting became the first appliance manufacturer to partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program, intended to help protect the ozone layer and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EPA’s voluntary program focuses on refrigeration appliance recycling best practices, including the recovery of foam in used refrigerators.
About nine million refrigerators are disposed of every year in the U.S. GE referenced a 2005 Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) study that found that 90% of used refrigerators in the U.S. are shredded for their metal, but the remaining foam and other materials usually go to a landfill. During the shredding process, a substantial amount of GHG and ozone-depleting substance (ODS) emissions are released into the atmosphere.
GE formed an agreement with Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. (ARCA) to supply used-appliance volume from a six-state region to ARCA Advanced Processing’s regional recycling center in Pennsylvania. ARCA is investing in appliance recycling technology from UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT) that recovers approximately 95% of the insulating foam in refrigerators, reducing landfill waste and GHG and ODS emissions.
“GE and ARCA’s management of refrigerators, particularly the foam insulation, during the recycling process is innovative and raises the bar in the U.S. appliance industry,” said Drusilla Hufford, Stratospheric Protection Division Director of the EPA. “As the first appliance manufacturer to join EPA’s RAD Program, GE is demonstrating leadership by responsibly recycling appliances and reducing harmful emissions to help protect our planet.”
Today, the U.S. appliance recycling industry is very fragmented with wide variation in processes and little investment in foam recycling technology. GE and ARCA have plans to vastly improve appliance recycling and refrigerator foam recovery in the U.S. These joint efforts will significantly reduce landfill waste and GHG and ODS emissions.
"The technology we’re investing in – a precise, sealed and fully-automated refrigerator recycling system – will be the first URT system in North America,” said ARCA President and CEO Jack Cameron. He called the GE/ARCA partnership "a game-changer for U.S. appliance recycling.”
The URT system has the capability to automatically capture the blowing agents, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and cyclopentane from the insulating foam in refrigerators and freezers. GE and ARCA’s initial recycling efforts will begin at ARCA Advanced Processing’s regional recycling center in Pennsylvania. The center is on schedule to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2011.
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