Appliances

Stuck with an old appliance? Here's how to get rid of it

Keeping you and the environment in mind

A person with work gloves is moving an old refrigerator secured to a dolly. Credit: Getty Images / victorass88

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When you buy a new appliance, the last thing on your mind is how you'll eventually throw it away. They're typically approached as an investment for the future, but the reality is in 10–20 years—if you're lucky—you'll need to get rid of it. And disposing of a large appliance is not as easy as bagging it and binning it.

Whatever the reason, be it malfunction or just wanting to upgrade to a cheaper, more energy-efficient model, there are a few ways to stay responsible as you dispose of your old appliances.

Trade it in or recycle it

recycling
Credit: Getty Images/baranozdemir

Recycling centers are built to efficiently dispose of any harmful components in your appliances and ensure qualifying materials will be reused.

One of the best ways to get rid of an old appliance is to swap it out when you buy a new one. Most retailers offer a service to take away your old appliance when they deliver a new one, often for no additional cost. They'll take care of safely disposing of any dangerous chemicals or components, such as refrigerants.

Retailers may also provide removal service for a fee. For example, Best Buy will pick up an old appliance for $29.99 if you're buying a new appliance there, or for $99.99 without a qualifying purchase.

If you're trying to get the job done cheaply, you can research local junk removal services instead. Finally, some donation-based operations, such as the Salvation Army, also offer a pickup service for large appliances—and as a bonus, you can write off the value of the item on your taxes.

Recycling your old appliance provides the biggest environmental benefit, allowing the plastic, metal, and glass in the unit to all be reclaimed and reused. You can look up the number for your local recycling center via sites like Earth911.

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Turn it in with your utility company

Your utility company offer incentives or pay you outright to turn in an old appliance for new, more efficient one via a rebate program. Sometimes utility companies offer to compensate you with cash or via a credit to your utility account.

For example, in Massachusetts, you can get a $75 rebate through the Mass Save program when you recycle your fridge or freezer. You can even schedule the pickup online.

Programs like this one vary based on where you live and who your utility provider is, but you can typically find out what's locally available by searching "[your city or state] appliance rebate program." The EPA's Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program has some great resources on the removal of ozone-depleting appliances, and the org partners with utility companies that may service your area.

Schedule a trash pickup

curb pick-up
Credit: Getty Images/JCPJR

Depending on where you live, you might be able to dispose of certain appliances the same way you would any other bit of trash, it just may require waiting for a specific day or scheduling a pickup.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to leave that old appliance on the sidewalk for trash collection, but you will likely have to schedule an appointment and pay a fee. The rules for this also vary based on your location.

For example, in the city of Boston, you have to call and schedule a pickup for most appliances. This service may be provided for free on certain days, or perhaps require a small fee or permit for disposal. Again, we recommend researching the laws that apply to your area.

Make sure you dispose of your appliances properly!

landfill
Credit: Getty Images / ClarkandCompany

Many landfills have special recycling programs for appliances, so any harmful chemicals are disposed of properly.

Whether you're recycling or trashing your unit, be aware of whether or not your appliance has hazardous components.

Refrigerators and air conditioners contain refrigerants and mercury that pose environmental concerns when not disposed of properly. If you have a fridge or freezer that was manufactured before 1995) it also likely contains chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), while air conditioners and dehumidifiers from that time frame probably contain hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). These chemicals deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. The foam used in fridges manufactured before 2005 also contains these chemicals, and the fridge's circuits and oil can also be contaminated.

If your appliances were made before 1979, avoid handling any internal components altogether: they likely have Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) in their circuits, which have been linked to cancer and other health problems in both humans and animals.

While older appliances are certainly more dangerous than newer ones, all of them can pose a threat when disposed of improperly, either to you, surrounding wildlife, or your community via chemicals leeching into groundwater.

For more information on disposing of appliances, consult these guidelines from the EPA.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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