Energy Adviser: Recycling can pay off in many ways

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Is it time to banish the avocado-gold refrigerator haunting the basement? Isn't that freezer buzzing away in the garage bugging you? And those spent compact florescent bulbs huddled in the corner of the garage -- what about them?

You're in luck! Clark Public Utilities can help rid you of old freezers and refrigerators if you call and schedule a free pickup. And the utility will give you a $30 credit on your bill, too.

Vintage refrigerators and freezers from the 1960s, '70s and even '80s may continue to run for some years. But they can use three times more energy to keep items cold than new models. Selling old appliances at garage sales or passing them on to relatives adds to the problem by keeping them in operation for even longer.

Refrigerators and freezers manufactured before 1995 typically contain chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant. They can also contain other pollutants, including oil, PCBs and mercury. Fluorocarbons released into the environment harm the earth's ozone layer, and proper decommissioning of these old appliances is critical to keeping toxins from escaping into the atmosphere.

If you live in Clark County, are a residential utility customer and own an old refrigerator or freezer you no longer want, the utility will arrange for CFC Recycling to pick it up from your home at no charge and properly decommission it. It must be at least 10 cubic feet in size and operational.

Choose to replace your old fridge or freezer with an Energy Star model and you'll get a $25 rebate from the utility, paid at the time of purchase at a participating Clark County retailer, in addition to the recycling bill credit.

To schedule a pickup and arrange for the $30 credit on your power bill, call 360-992-3000.

CFL bulbs

In 2012, Clark Public Utilities took in 12,175 recycled CFL bulbs for a savings of 260,975 kilowatt-hours, reports Barb Westley, part of the energy-efficiency team at the utility. In addition, the agency recycled 283 freezers and 2,102 old refrigerators.

Total estimated kilowatt-hours saved from recycling: about 1.3 million. That's enough to power more than 90 households for a year.

Utility customers can bring in burned-out CFL bulbs to any Clark Public Utilities customer service location and exchange them for new ones, up to six at a time. The utility does not accept burned-out fluorescent tube bulbs, but some local recycling sites do.

Proper disposal of CFLs is important because bulbs contain up to five milligrams of mercury, about 1 percent the amount in an older thermometer, says the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. The small amount of mercury in a CFL is what allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. A standard fluorescent light tube can contain up to 46 milligrams of mercury.

Locally, residents can recycle fluorescent tube bulbs and CFL bulbs at no charge at two sites:

• Central Transfer and Recovery Center: 11034 N.E. 117th Ave., Vancouver, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays.

• West Van Materials Recovery Center: 6601 N.W. Old Lower River Road, Vancouver, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.

For a fee, businesses can recycle florescent lights at Philip Services Corp., 625 S. 32nd St., Washougal, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday each month.

Recycling refrigerators, freezers and spent compact florescent bulbs is not only good for the environment, it also helps keep power costs lower -- which is why the utility is committed to it. Less demand for power means less money spent building new generation plants or purchasing power on the energy market. That helps keep rates lower and is a benefit to all.Energy adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.