When Mark Hoppe’s kids began leaving the house more and more, there was little need of the 19-year-old refrigerator sitting in the garage, yet it continued to run. Not knowing what to do with it, Hoppe stumbled upon an email from Duke Energy Progress.
The company was offering to come to Hoppe’s house in North Raleigh and give him $50 to recycle his refrigerator.
“I thought ‘Sure,’ ” he said. “The kids aren’t in the house eating and drinking enough to keep it.”
Duke Energy has recycled about 34,000 refrigerators and freezers from its customers over the last four years. It collects ones that are in working condition and between 10 and 30 cubic feet and takes them to a recycling facility operated by JACO Environmental. The program is available to all North Carolina residents who are Duke customers.
Recycling an older fridge benefits both Duke and its customers. Unplugging an old fridge can save up to $150 a year in energy costs, not only lowering customer bills but also reducing the demand on the company’s system. Older models use three to four times more energy than newer models because of differences in motor technology used to keep the inside cool, according to Duke spokeswoman Amy Strecker.
Lower energy use also means less pollution, said Justin Rainer, program manager at JACO.
“The impact of taking a fridge off the grid, with global emissions, is equivalent to taking two cars off the road for a year,” Rainer said.
Customers can donate up to two fridges per year and receive $50 for each one. In addition to saving energy, the appliance owner knows the parts will be recycled and the foam within the fridge disposed of safely.
“Foam insulation in fridges made before 1996 is very carcinogenic,” said John Langston, appliance recycling program manager at Duke. “Our team chips it out and seals it within a plastic bag within 30 minutes. Otherwise it’s like hairspray in the ozone.”
Picking up and recycling each fridge is a multistep process.
Before moving the appliance, the two-person team sent by Duke checks to make sure it’s working, cuts the power cord and door gasket and removes the thermostat to be shipped to a qualified handler.
Before shipping the fridge, the team then disables it in front of the customer to ensure it won’t be sent to a resale market.
At the recycling facility, the fridge’s parts are separated so each material can be recycled individually. Nails, computers, mobile phones and cans are some of the products that can be made from recycled refrigerators.