Appliances 'Steel' a High Recycling Rate
by Mary E. Hill

Did you know that more than half of all steel produced in the United States is made from recycled material?

Some of the benefits of using scrap to make new steel were identified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and include a reduction in air and water pollution, savings in virgin materials, energy and water use.

Major home appliances, or "white goods," include washers, dryers, stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, room air conditioners and microwaves. These items account for roughly 10 percent of all recycled steel.

Most American households contain an average of five to seven major appliances. This is the source of the majority of used appliances, rather than retail/wholesale stores that take trade-ins or collect replaced units. Appliances are seldom landfilled because scrap steel is valuable. When units do make it to the landfill site, they often are accumulated until quantities make their sale to a processor worthwhile.

In the year 2000, the appliance recycling rate was 84 percentó 19.9 percent higher than the overall steel recycling rate.

Many states, counties and municipalities sponsor appliance round-up events which allow the consumer to bring used appliances for disposal free of charge. Another common method of collecting used appliances is accomplished through utility companies trade-in programs.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) often are found in household refrigerants and freezers made prior to 1994. Both are considered ozone-depleting coolants. CFCs and HCFCs can be reclaimed and cleaned for reuse in the maintenance and repair of other units.

The processors involved in recycling appliances are held responsible for ensuring that the refrigerants have been reclaimed, whatever method might be used.

Recycling used appliances benefits everyone involved and should continue expanding as a valuable cyclical resource.