Appliances designed to keep things cool, such as refrigerators, pose a special challenge for appliance recyclers: their refrigerants contain CFCs. These refrigerants are considered an ozone depleting gas, and the amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1990 prohibit the open-air venting of these gases. Special equipment must
be used to capture CFCs for recycling. Not all scrap processing yards have this equipment; instead they rely on companies like Scientific Recycling.
Refrigerants, however, are not the only recyclable collected from these appliances. The force behind the recyclability of appliances is the steel used in their bodies.
“Steel from appliances is my bottom line,” said Mike Niles, president, Scientific Recycling Inc. “When most people have no further use for an old appliance, that’s when it is most useful to me. I put a good portion of those old appliances right back to work as new steel products.”
Niles’ recycling company, which is one of the five oldest in the nation, has been processing out-of-service has been recycling appliances from Iowa and Nebraska.
The collected appliances are stored in a semi-trailer left at the drop-off sites. Once the trailer is full, the appliances are transported to the Scientific Recycling processing facility in Holman, WI. The appliances are cataloged, thereby assuring that when the appliance is recycled, the scrap processing yard can be sure it is dealing with a CFC-free appliance.
The prepared appliances are then hauled to Alter Scrap Processing, Lacrosse, WI, where they are shredded and mixed with other steel including cans, cars and construction materials. This steel is then shipped to end markets throughout the midwest.