Saturday, April 4, 2020
April 4, 2020

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Energy Adviser: Recycling appliances pays off in many ways

The Columbian

Driving through your neighborhood you might see a freezer or refrigerator standing near the garage door. It’s not turned toward the garage door because it’s bashful. It’s awaiting its last ride.

Clark Public Utilities and its recycler, CFC Recycling Inc., ask those recycling these kitchen appliances to face the appliances toward a building to protect curious children. “We found placing freezers and fridges on the curb was a potential safety hazard,” said Bob Critchfield, who owns the recycling business.

“Customers who buy qualified refrigerators and freezers from participating Clark County retailers receive an immediate $25 back at the register,” said Debbie DePetris, residential programs manager. “When they recycle their old residential-style, functional appliance with a minimum capacity of 10 cubic feet, through the utility, they also receive a $30 credit on their utility bill.”

Critchfield has been recycling fridges and freezers for the utility for about six years. He hesitates to estimate how many he carts off annually. But, he does say his driver picks up hundreds here in Clark County.

Some garages and man caves may still be running vintage refrigerators or freezers dating as far back as the 1960s. It might seem like a good plan to just move the old one to a garage or basement, but these appliances use three times more energy than the newest models and can boost the monthly electric bill. Recouping a bit of cash by selling old ones or gifting them to family decreases the overall energy efficiency in our region, DePetris said. From a power savings point of view, recycling older ones puts them permanently out of service.

The process is simple. When a customer requests fridge or freezer recycling, the utility notifies Critchfield of a pickup and he calls the customer to arrange for a time. This reduces the amount of time an appliance sits unattended outside. “My work is just an extension of the high customer service quality of the utility,” he said.

Once his driver has retrieved the appliance, he reports it to the utility so the customer can receive the $30 credit (limit of two credits per address). But at that point there’s still much work to be done to part it out and recycle it.

Based on guidelines from the utility, the EPA and the state, once picked up the appliances are taken to a disassembly area for decommissioning. There his employees drain refrigerant from the freezers and refrigerators, cleanse it and store it in drums for sale to refrigerant recyclers. Then his team pulls out all the copper and other wiring. They clean condensers and resell them to companies that refurbish them for resale. Plastic in the appliance is sorted and recycled. The external cases of appliances are run through a shredder and the metal remains sold as scrap.

Sometimes the pickups can be a bit disgusting. “We ask customers to clean out the refrigerators or freezers before they put them out,” Critchfield said. “But sometimes people forget and leave food in them, and that can get nasty. So we call to remind them and agree to pick up the emptied and cleaned appliance at a later time.”

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

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.