How to responsibly recycle your white goods

For the majority of people, recycling has become part of everyday life.  Sorting rubbish before sending it to refuse is no longer the job of ‘eco-warriors’ but something we all accept that we must do as responsible citizens, wanting to leave the earth in a better condition for our children.  Remember the three ‘R’s’?  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle the waste you create.

White Goods

We are at an all-time population high and the sheer amount of waste we create is beginning to cause significant issues to our global environments.  It is now more important than ever to seriously think and act on the way we manage our waste.

However, whilst recycling our everyday waste has become as normal as switching the lights on, knowing what to do with our white goods when they have reached the end of their useful life is another matter altogether.

In today’s society, products that were once thought of as ‘luxury’ items such as laptops, PCs, washing machines and fridge freezers are now regularly updated, encouraging us to replace them regularly. Personally, I have worked my way through at least four washing machines and three fridge freezers since moving into my house ten years ago.  We all want bigger, better and newer.

The Big Facts

The biggest concern with white goods relates to the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC to you and I!) refrigerants, such as refrigerators, freezers and air conditioning units.  CFC’s can cause serious damage to both people and the environment if they are not captured and disposed of correctly.

CFC’s are chemical compounds that were first developed in the 1930’s as an alternative to the more dangerous chemicals available at that time for a number of functions. They were a scientific phenomenon and contained several organic compounds that are particularly harmful to the environment, but which went unnoticed for several years causing significant damage to the ozone layer.  CFC’s have a life in the atmosphere for between 20-100 years, meaning the harmful effects can be felt for decades.

What You Do and What You Should Do

One common way for people to dispose of their unwanted or broken white goods is to illegally dump their waste onto land that has not been licensed to accept waste.  There were over one million incidents of fly tipping recorded in England and Wales last year, with the most commonly dumped items being fridge freezers and washing machines.

Responsible white goods recycling and disposal are essential to keep our communities and environment safe.  There are numerous white goods recycling centres that can be researched online – chances are there is one much closer to you than you think.

Once the recycling centre has your item (many offer a collection service or drop off service), it will be examined to establish whether it can be repaired and re-used – huge numbers are then given to charities or sent abroad to third world countries.  Those that can’t be repaired are broken down into parts and either sold for their metal and copper content or disposed of responsibly.

There are of course other options, particularly if your item is still in good working order. Why not ask family or friends if they have a use for it. You could also try sites such as Free cycle or another community organizations that will happily accept donations of used white goods in order to allow another family the opportunity to use them.

This article was written by freelance writer and mother of three, Kathryn Thompson.  Follow her on Twitter: @katht35

Erin Emanuel