how to dispose of a fridge

Fridge disposal guide

8 September 2020

If disposed of incorrectly, fridges can produce gases that are harmful to the environment.  Fridge disposal doesn’t have to be complicated though - we’ve created a simple guide on how to dispose of your fridge.

  1. Different ways to dispose of fridges
  2. Harmful substances in fridges
  3. Legislation for disposing of fridges
  4. What happens to a fridge when it's recycled?

1.  Different ways to dispose of fridges

  • Donate/sell

If your fridge is still in good condition, always consider the greenest alternative: reuse.  There are some great websites dedicated to promoting reuse where you can give away your appliance for free to anyone who wants it, or you could sell it instead.  Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, Freegle, Gumtree and eBay are some examples.

  • Civic Amenity Site / Council Tip

If you are a householder, you can dispose of your old fridge at your local household waste recycling centre.  As long as you have the means of transport and the strength, it’s a great way to responsibly dispose of your old appliance.  Be sure to check in advance if your local tip accepts fridges beforehand because some don’t, and others may charge.

  • Council 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 are more likely to collect faster than council bulky waste collection services or even HWRC’s if you have to book in advance.

If you’re based in London, you can use the app LoveJunk to be matched to a local licensed waste collector, giving you the flexibility of setting a date, time and price of a collection that suits you. 

If you were thinking of hiring a skip for your fridge disposal, don’t.  Due to the harmful substances in fridges, they need to be disposed of differently to other waste meaning they aren’t allowed in skips. A man and van waste company is the best option.


2. Harmful substances in fridges

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 for fridge disposal

When disposing of a fridge, there are 3 relevant and important pieces of legislation 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 - this regulation places an obligation on anyone who manufacturers, sells, distributes and disposes of fridges 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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