Attention Georgia Power customers: if you have an old secondary refrigerator or freezer in working condition, reduce your power bill and receive a $35 rebate by participating in the Georgia Power EarthCents Refrigerator Recycling program. The power company recently expanded the program by moving into a new 22,000-square-foot facility in Tucker, Ga. The new facility is capable of recycling up to 100 refrigerators or freezers per day.
According to Vicki Nichols, energy efficiency program manager for Georgia Power, customers can save up to $150 per year in energy costs by simply removing the old secondary unit from their household.
The refrigerator recycling pilot program started in 2008 when Georgia Power partnered with JACO Environmental to offer its customers a way to reduce their energy bills by removing and recycling old refrigerators in an environmentally safe way. In 2011, the program expanded statewide and now operates as a Georgia Power EarthCents program.
Since the pilot program launched in 2008, Georgia Power customers have recycled more than 22,000 refrigerators. If you do the math, it will show that Georgia Power customers have saved more than $3 million in energy costs by participating in the EarthCents Refrigerator Recycling program. If you take it a step further and calculate the possible future savings if the new facility were to reach capacity, the number is quite astounding. The savings really begin to add up.
Justin Rainer, JACO Environmental program manager, is in charge of the new facility and explained the refrigerator recycling process to me during a recent interview.
After a Georgia Power customer’s refrigerator or freezer is picked up, the unit is brought to the new Tucker facility for processing. The first step is to catalog each unit so that it can be tracked. Refrigerators and freezers are then separated by Freon type and tested for insulation type by drilling a hole into the side of the refrigerator.
Once the insulation type has been tested, all of the doors, interior shelving, crisper drawers and aluminum bars are removed. Plastic will be chipped and shipped to a mid-stream recycling center. According to Rainer, there are 10 different types of plastics that are used in refrigerators and the plastics-only recycling center further sorts the plastics recovered by the JACO Environmental staff.
The glass removed from the refrigerators is crushed on site and sent to a glass recycler that reuses it in concrete. Oils removed from the unit can be used in other industrial equipment. The refrigerant, items containing mercury, capacitors that contain PCBs and other hazardous products are shipped to a company that is certified to handle hazardous waste.
The final step in the process is cutting the refrigerator into pieces. The metal scraps are then sent to a metal recycling facility. The average 10-year-old refrigerator contains about 159 pounds of steel. Recycling a ton of steel — that's about 16 full-sized refrigerators worth — can eliminate the need for 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.
The foam removed from the refrigerator during the breakdown process is gathered into large bags and sealed before being sent to a waste-to-energy incinerator. The 10 pounds of foam found in the average refrigerator produces about 20 kilowatt hours of electricity as it is incinerated.
Recycling a refrigerator is a nearly waste-free process with only a small percentage of waste, between 2 and 5 percent per unit, actually ending up in a landfill. (The rubber gaskets around the door as well as the fiberglass insulation in the door itself can’t be recycled.) However, the fiberglass insulation serves a purpose, even at the landfill. The insulation is used to create a barrier in between layers of trash and this barrier helps speed up the waste’s decomposition rate.
Georgia Power has made it easy for its customers to participate in the EarthCents Refrigerator Recycling program. To qualify, a unit must meet the following specifications:
- Units must be in working condition
- Refrigerators and freezers need to be between 10 and 30 cubic feet in size
- Customers will need to provide clear and easy access to the unit
Once the qualifications are met, customers can call 1-866-446-9250 or log on to the official EarthCents Refrigerator Recycling program website. A pickup date will be set and the customer will receive a $35 rebate check within four to six weeks.