fridge full of food.
Fridge Freezer Disposal

Fridges and Freezers Disposal and Recycling

Disposing of fridges and freezers must be done in a safe and environmentally friendly way to protect human health and the planet. Today around 76% of households around the globe own a fridge freezer, while many businesses use them in their kitchens. Over time they can break down and you’ll need to dispose of a fridge and/or freezer.

As large electrical appliances made from various materials, getting rid of fridges and freezers isn’t always straightforward. Here we talk about the history of fridges and freezers, explain how they’re made and what you can do to dispose of a fridge or freeze that no longer works.

What type of waste are 
fridges and freezers?

Old and broken fridges and freezers class as WEEE waste (waste electrical and electronic equipment). However, broken down into their component parts they contain a variety of other waste types, mainly:

Fridges and freezers also contain substances hazardous to health. For example, mercury waste can cause DNA damage and disrupt the nervous system, as well as causing skin rashes and headaches. Polyurethane can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat and cause asthma. Polyvinyl chloride is known to cause dizziness, damage internal organs and increase cancer risk for those in regular contact with it.

Due to the dangerous nature of some of these components, it’s therefore essential that old fridges and freezers are disposed of safely.

How do you dispose of 
an old fridge or freezer?

There are several options available for getting rid of a fridge freezer depending on its condition. If your fridge or freezer is still in working order, you may be able to make some money by listing it for sale on sites such as eBay, Gumtree, or Facebook Marketplace.

Another environmentally friendly option is to give it to a friend or relative. Or donate it to a local charity shop (some often offer collection). These are better choices than recycling fridges and freezers, as it saves the energy required for recycling or creating a new fridge or freezer the recipient would otherwise buy.

For any broken fridges and freezers, they’ll have to be scrapped. If you’re buying a new fridge, some companies offer to take the old one away for free. If you’re strong and own suitable transport, you may be able to take your fridge to your local tip or recycling centre. Alternatively, most councils will collect large waste such as fridges and freezers for a fee.

For businesses getting rid of fridges and freezers, you’ll need to arrange collection by licensed waste carriers. Contact Business Waste and we can help get rid of your old fridges and freezers safely.

old fridge in backstreet with graffiti face.

Can I take a fridge 
to the tip?

You can normally take a fridge you no longer need to the tip – if it’s domestic waste. Check with your local council or household waste recycling centre (HWRC) first that they accept old fridges and freezers. If the fridge is from your business, you can’t take it to the tip and must arrange commercial waste collection by licensed waste carriers.

What happens to my fridge or freezer 
after it’s taken away?

By law, UK fridges must be disposed of by an approved contractor. The UK’s largest recycling plant, owned by AO, receives 700,000 fridges every year – almost a quarter of the UK’s total. At recycling plants like this, fridges and freezers are checked to ensure they’re no longer capable of being reused.

Then the fridge or freezer is carefully broken down in a way that ensures workers are protected from harmful elements and any dangerous gases remain contained. Individual parts are removed and sent for recycling separately – such as the motor, any plastics, metals, and foams.

What are the costs associated with recycling 
and disposing of fridges and freezers?

If you can take your fridge or freezer to the tip or recycling centre yourself, there’s no charge to dispose of a fridge or freezer. However, if you have to arrange for collection from your local council, you’ll usually have to pay a fee. The same is true for businesses getting rid of fridges and freezers – you’ll have to pay a commercial waste company for collection.

What are some problems with 
fridges and freezer waste?

One problem with the fridge and freezer recycling process is that, while the law regulates their disposal, some of the centres responsible for this aren’t operating as well as they should be. A 2002 study found that millions of fridges sent for recycling were still releasing damaging gases into the environment.

What can a fridge or freezer be made into?

Plastic from fridges and freezers can be recycled to produce items such as plant pots. The motors and metal parts are also recyclable and can be turned into new products – sometimes to help build new fridges.

When were fridges 
and freezers invented?

The fridge was invented in 1834 by an American inventor named Jacob Perkins. Unfortunately, due to its cost and unreliability, Perkins’ wooden cooling box didn’t enjoy much success. Domestic refrigerators didn’t become widely available until the 1930s, when Electrolux began to market theirs in the USA.

The first freezers began to appear a decade later in the 1940s. These didn’t go into mass production until after the end of World War II.

Before fridges were invented, people used ice boxes to keep their fresh produce cool. These first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century and consisted of a wooden box separated into sections and lined with insulators such as zinc, cork, or tin. A block of ice was placed in one of the sections with food stored in the others.

inside of a freezer with a tub of ice cream.

What can I do with my fridge or freezer 
instead of disposing of it?

If your fridge or freezer is no longer working but you don’t want to dispose of it, the internet is awash with creative ideas for how you can imaginatively reuse your old appliance. If you fancy a new sofa, bookcase, or even a pantry cupboard, you could brush up on your DIY skills to turn your old fridge into something useful.

How long do fridge freezers last?

Typically, a fridge freezer has an average life expectancy of between ten and 15 years. Most fridges can last for ten to 20 years if maintained properly, while a standalone freezer could last anywhere from 12 to 20 years. This may seem like a long time, but in the UK the number of fridges scrapped each year is now equal to the number purchased (three million).

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What are fridges and freezers made of?

It depends on the exact model, but generally most fridges are made of around:

  • 60% steel
  • 13% plastic
  • 10% polyurethane (PUR) foam
  • 3% copper
  • 3% aluminium
  • 1% glass
  • 10% consisting of other materials – including chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), mercury (Hg), and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

How are fridges and freezers made?

Fridges and freezers are made up of a few parts, each constructed separately. The outer cabinet is made by folding and sealing sheet metal (usually steel), welding the edges together, and coating or painting it. The inner cabinet may be made in the same way, though many fridges have plastic interiors – made through vacuum forming.

After its creation, the inner cabinet is installed in the outer one and any cables and tubing inserted. Gaps are filled with expanding Polyurethane foam to insulate the fridge or freezer. Other components such as the cooling system, seals, and handles are added before it’s leak tested and ready for use.

To dispose of your old fridge freezer call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online for a free no obligation quote.

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