The Green Guide to Getting Rid of Old and Broken Appliances

When you purchase major home appliances, how you're going to get rid of them is the last thing on your mind. Nevertheless, every year people replace the major appliances in their homes, and every year people wonder what to do with their old, worn out appliances.

One of the best ways to deal with unwanted appliances is to recycle them. However, it's not as simple as figuring out whether you need to toss your microwave into the blue or the green bin. Here's our green guide to getting rid of old and broken appliances.

How to Dispose of Large Appliances

When it comes to dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, refrigerators, and even ovens, too many people simply take them to the dump. Because these appliances aren't biodegradable, they will rust, some of them might leak harmful materials, and they'll end up occupying space at the landfill. This is the worst option, when considering the health of the environment.

The first thing that Scientific American recommends you do is to check with your local waste utility for free pick-ups and rebates. Utilities in 10 U.S. states as well as Ontario, Canada, offer this service in partnership with a company called Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program, which was launched in October 2006 to protect the ozone layer, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and benefit communities. The EPA proudly boasts on their site that they "commit to collecting and disposing of old refrigerated appliances using the best environmental practices available and going beyond what is required by federal law." The goal of RAD is to reduce the release of harmful agents into the environment. Improperly disposed of, materials like refrigerant and insulating foam contribute to stratospheric ozone depletion and climate change. Find RAD partners here.

If you don't have access to any of these programs in your area, you still have a couple of options. If your appliances still work, consider posting an ad on Craigslist or a similar service to make a little cash and ensure that it gets to a good home. If you don't feel you have the time to do that, you can always give older appliances to places like Goodwill, or anywhere that accepts charitable donations. These organizations will sell the item, and donate the proceeds to charity. Most will even come pick the item up, and your donation is tax-deductible. If there isn't a viable charity to donate to near you, many municipalities will have a pick up service that will take certain appliances for recycle.

One final option available to you is to sell or donate your old appliances for scrap metal. Your stove, refrigerator, freezer and washer all have valuable metals that builders and manufacturers can repurpose and reuse. This process isn't as environmentally friendly as donating, reselling or sending the appliance to an EPA recycling center, so exercise this option last.

How to Dispose of Small Appliances and Electronics

When it comes to smaller appliances like microwaves, televisions and anything else that is more electronic in nature and doesn't need to be hauled away by truck, you're likely able to recycle these as well. In fact, some states have disposal bans for electronics, and mandate that some small appliances be recycled. Check local and state ordinances for further guidance. Even if you're not required to, you should still help to conserve natural resources and sustain the environment by repurposing, recycling, and reusing.

Another thing to note: the older your electronics are, the more likely they will contain harmful elements like lead and mercury. This alone is an excellent reason to recycle them, and there are companies devoted to being environmental stewards by doing this for you. Stores like Best Buy take older electronics such as cellphones and make sure they're recycled properly; other major brands such as Apple and Sony have corporate electronic recycling programs as well. These companies can usually either refurbish the item or use it for parts, keeping them out of the landfill and in the hands of their users. You can check out local drop-off and pick-up recycling locations here.

Like larger appliances, small appliances are acceptable donations to places like the Goodwill and are also tax-deductible write-offs. If your neighborhood has an annual yard-sale day, that might also be a good opportunity to resell your appliance. Look out for community events like these, and recognize that almost every area of the United States now has some kind of recycling program.

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