Can’t figure out how to get rid of your old refrigerator? If you live in Northern California, a robot can recycle it—and pay you $35 to do it.

Okay, okay. So as much as we’d like to envision Artoo-Detoo eating a fridge then writing a check, (or even better, Vikki, the child robot from the great 80s sitcom Small Wonder) that’s not quite how it works. A press release from JACO, inc., the recycling company based in Washington state that developed the technology, describes the device as more of a claw that extracts the bad stuff from refrigerators:

Besides consuming up to five times the energy required by newer, more efficient refrigerators, old refrigerators contain a toxic brew that includes mercury, oil and ozone-eating chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from foam insulation. As a result, old refrigerators pose a significant threat to the environment when improperly discarded.

And better yet, the company is putting that bad stuff to good use:

The new technology will also make it easier to recover insulation foam that contains CFCs. In particular, foam insulation containing CFC 11 is combustible and when safely incinerated can be used to generate electricity. On average, each old fridge contains the equivalent of seven kilowatts of electricity that can be added to the power grid.

But the real question is: will the robot extract ancient Tupperware languishing in the back of our fridges? Talk about toxic brew.

Story by Kiera Butler. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2006. The story was added to MNN.com in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2006.