Guest Post by Sarah Parker
In today’s society there is no excuse not to recycle your old appliance parts and e-waste. It’s our collective responsibility to protect the planet and health not only for ourselves but for future generations. When it comes to fixing and donating old appliances, there are many environmental and charitable advantages, both for landfills and for the environment in general.
Old appliances and electronics (also called e-waste) fall under the category of hazardous waste. This means that they are toxic, corrosive, flammable and all-around nasty. If one were to dump an old appliance in a landfill in would sit there for all eternity whilst polluting the soil, water and air. Examples of appliances that we need to make sure we recycle are dishwashers, refrigerators, microwaves, stoves, washer and dryers, cell phones, televisions, computers, and DVD players. Of course there are many other household gadgets that need to be carefully disposed of as well, such as fluorescent light bulbs and batteries.
Landfills are the oldest form of waste treatment we have, but the ever increasing amount of appliances and e-waste the public consumes is a growing threat to their sustainability. In the United States, consumers are constantly purchasing and upgrading their gadgetry in order to “keep up with the Joneses”, oftentimes discarding old products in their trash bin where they end up sitting in a landfill. There are companies that specialize in e-waste recycling and will recycle electronic items in an environmentally responsible way. In California it has been illegal since 1994 to send them to the landfill, yet people still do.
An incorrectly disposed of appliance will cause serious environmental problems. It’s byproducts, which can be solid, liquid, or gas, will seep down into the water table. We will eventually consume them, either through drinking the water or eating contaminated fish and other types of seafood. Pollutants and heavy metals will run into the soil, damaging plant life and eco-systems, as well as travel many miles through the atmosphere if they are burned . The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that as much as 400 million tons of hazardous waste ends up in landfills each year.
There are several types of pollutants that come from appliances and e-waste. CFC’s, including HCFC’s and HFC’s, destroy the ozone layer and cause greenhouse gases which leads to global warming. Refrigerators made before 1995 contain a particularly large amount of CFC’s. Other things that contain CFC’s are air conditioners and dehumidiyfiers. Foam found in refrigerators and freezers made before 2005 also contributes to global warming and the destruction of greenhouse gases. In addition, some made before 2000 contain mercury.
Mercury is highly toxic and has a particular horrible effect on living things. It makes its way into the food chain by seeping into the water table and can lead to deformities in developing embryos. It also damages the nervous and immune systems and effects coordination, taste, sight and touch. It is particularly prevalent in fish and seafood.
Of course, there are always many needy families that would love to have your old working appliances. They will probably be more than happy to come and pick up the appliance from your home, which your back will thank you for A good place to connect with people is through online sites such as Craigslist and Freecycle. You can also donate to charities like the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Again, they will be more that happy to come and take your heavy fridge or monstrous washing machine, and you can feel good about providing someone less fortunate with a household necessity. Additionally, some communities and municipalities offer rebates for turning in your old appliances and replacing them with new, energy efficient ones. Again, they will pick them up for you and even swap the new appliances for the old ones on delivery.
Another environmental bonus to recycling old gadgets and appliances is that through the process you can recover and reuse useful materials such as steel, plastic, glass and oil. In fact, up to 2/3 of all appliances are made of steel. This means that fewer new resources are required, which saves energy because it uses less to recycle than to create new products. In this way we help to preserve our natural resources. Additionally, new products are more energy efficient than older ones, so even if you think you will just wait to replace your appliance until it’s broken, by replacing it now you will actually be saving a whole lot of money and doing the earth a favor. For example, a fridge made as recently as fifteen years ago uses seventy percent more energy than a modern one.