Green Tips: Recycling Appliances

With Earth Day earlier this week, we're especially thinking about ways to be greener in the kitchen, such as recycling old appliances.

Until recently, most unwanted appliances were simply dumped in landfills, which is especially a shame since most are almost completely recyclable. Now, about half the states outlaw landfill dumping, and all 50 have some kind of recycling available.

Whether you're doing a major kitchen remodel and have several large appliances to get rid of, or just want to offload an old broken mixer, there are Earth-friendly ways to do so.

Pass it On The most complete method of recycling is giving it to another person to use. If your item is in good working order, consider one of these options.

• Charity. Most Goodwill stores accept small appliances, and some accept large appliances such as washer dryers or refrigerators. Call your local branch to find out if they'll come pick up at your home.

Freecycle This national message board calls itself a "gifting" network, meaning that you post items you have to give away, and local people say "yes! I'd like that!" You then negotiate where and when to make the exchange. Your items stay out of landfills, and instead go to people who can use them.

Excess Access If you'd rather give your appliance to charity, but aren't sure where to begin, this site is a charity matching service. You pay a small fee ($5) to list your item, and they match you with a local charity that needs that item.

Is it really broken?If your appliance is broken, you might think it's good for nothing but the trash heap. But large appliances may need nothing more than a belt replaced. It may be worth the cost of repairing it, even if you still intend to get rid of it. Recycling is great, but a repaired appliance can be used 100% with no added energy costs.

For small appliances, repair costs often exceed the cost of replacement. But look to see if there is a local repair shop who will accept donations for parts. Some thrift stores may also accept broken small appliances

It's Really Broken
• If you're buying a new appliance, check to see if your manufacturer or store will accept and recycle your old one in exchange. The EPA has a list of participating vendors. While many of them mainly sell computers and cell phones, Best Buy is one example of a store with appliance recycling options.

• Most major appliances are more than 75% steel, a very recyclable metal. Your local municipality may have a program already in place to pickup and recycle large appliances. The Steel Recycling Institute has a database of recycling locations near you.

Be aware that many municipalities require any refrigerant to be removed before you can recycle it. But in such areas, even if you were going to just dump it, you'd still have to have the refrigerant removed.

Image: "Refrigerator" by Marion Stephan