how to dispose of a fridge

Fridge disposal guide

8 September 2020

Looking to learn more about fridge disposal?  Well, you're definitely in the right place! Here is our exhaustive guide on how to dispose of a fridge.

  1. Different ways to dispose o f fridges
  2. Harmful substances in fridges
  3. Legislation governing fridge disposal
  4. What happens to a fridge when it's recycled?

1.  Different ways to dispose of fridges

  • Donate/sell

If your fridge is working and in good condition, then by far the greenest and cheapest option is reuse.  Other than searching for local reuse charities or giving it to a friend or relative, there are some great websites dedicated to promoting reuse. The most popular are Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, Freegle, Gumtree and eBay.

  • Civic Amenity Site / Council Tip

If you are a householder, you can dispose of your old fridge at your household waste recycling centre (otherwise known as the local tip).  As long as you have the means of transport and the strength, it’s a great and normally completely free way to responsibly dispose of your old appliance.  Note: Be sure to check in advance if your local tip accepts fridges because some don’t, and a few charge a fee for fridges.

  • Council bulky collection service

Your local council provides fridge collection and recycling to all residents as part of its bulky waste collection service.  Note though that this is not available to businesses. Charges vary between councils, if you live in London you can see how much your local council charges here.

  • Waste removal company 

Lastly, you can use a licensed waste removal company to collect and dispose of your fridge.  An advantage of using a waste company is that they will collect faster than council bulky waste collection services and also can pick up from anywhere on the property, including up several flights of stairs!

If you’re based in London, use the app LoveJunk to find your cheapest, available licensed waste collector. The App is free to use and lets you post a photo of your fridge and say when you want it collected. Then local licensed waste companies can bid through the app to pick it up. The process tends to only take a few minutes and ensures you don't overpay - because ringing round waste companies not only takes time, but the prices vary hugely and have a lot to do with whether the waste company has capacity or not at the time you need the collection done.

How much will it cost? Expect to pay around £50 - £100 for the collection (including disposal) depending on the size of your fridge and where it is located.  Pay less than this and you should doubl check your collection company is legit and not fly tipping instead of disposing of the fridge properly.  Pickups from 5th floor flats tend to cost a bit more than if the fridge is out front ground floor.  

What about a skip? If you are thinking of hiring a skip for your fridge disposal...think again.  Due to the harmful substances in fridges, they need to be disposed of differently to other waste.  This means skip companies don't allow them (and nor for that matter do Hippobags).


2. Harmful substances in fridges - a bit of interesting background

If your fridge was made before 2000, it might have harmful substances in the insulation material and/or the refrigerant.  These substances are called Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).  They were used in fridges until it was found the CFC molecules released chlorine atoms when broken down by UV radiation.  Chlorine atoms reduce the ozone in the atmosphere, and as a result, increases the harmful UV-B radiation to reach the planet.  There is now an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol that has ended the production of these substances in fridges.

If your fridge has harmful substances, you can find out by looking at the plate which states the manufacturer, model, serial number and the type of refrigerant used.  The most common codes are:

  • R11 - CFCs contained in insulation
  • R12 - CFCs used as a refrigerant
  • R22 / R141b / R142b - HCFCs contained in insulation
  • R134a - HCFCs used as a refrigerant 


3. Legislation governing fridge disposal

When disposing of a fridge, there are 3 relevant and important pieces of law to be aware of:

  • Waste Duty of Care Regulations 2005 - all householders getting rid of waste have a duty of care to ensure that it’s responsibly disposed of, not fly-tipped.  This means, you either need to take it to a licensed waste facility (e.g your local HWRC) or ensure that the waste contractor collecting your waste is a registered waste carrier, which can be checked on the Environment Agency’s website here.  
  • EC regulation 2037/2000 - all refrigeration units containing Ozone Depleting Substances must have the substances removed in a controlled manner before the fridge is scrapped.  This can only be done in recycling facilities.  If the regulations are not met you can be fined up to £2,500 and be eligible for prosecution.
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment regulations (aka the WEEE regs) - fundamental to how appliances are disposed of, these (among many other things) oblige anyone who manufacturers, sells, distributes and disposes of fridges and freezers to reuse, recycle and recover them whenever possible.


4. What happens to a fridge when it’s recycled?

A fridge is recycled by following these steps:

  • First, the refrigerant and oil inside the motor of the fridge are removed.
  • The motor of the fridge is then removed and recycled.
  • The rest of the fridge goes to a sealed chamber where they extract gases from its insulation foam.  
  • The fridge is then destroyed by a big shredder which breaks the fridge’s outer shell into small pieces and the insulation foam is turned into powder.
  • The remains of the fridge then make their way to a heated conveyor belt which helps to release and neutralise any remaining gases.
  • Then the gases are condensed into a liquid with the use of nitrogen so they can be disposed of safely elsewhere.
  • The remains of the fridge are separated into different materials and the plastics, metals and foam are then used for recycling.

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