You can find them lurking in homes and businesses across the U.S.; those forgotten friends of the family. The ones who kept our food from spoiling, provided cooling relief during the summer months, kept us up-to-date on the latest news, kept us company in the evening and stayed up late working on homework. Who are these people you ask? Well, these are not people but old appliances, air conditioners, electronic equipment and computers.
Household appliances, like all consumer goods, will need to be disposed of at some point in time. The owner of these appliances must take great care in discarding these items because there are environmental consequences if not done properly. They can release harmful greenhouse gases, toxins and heavy metals into the environment through land, water and air absorption which affects all of us. The items that can have the most effect on the environment are refrigerators, air conditioners, electronics and fluorescent lighting products. But all items that can be recycled should be as they still can be used for other products and will cut down on further mining of increasingly scarce resources.
Here is a list from the American Council for a Fuel-Efficient Economy on items to be disposed of and recycled.
Refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers and room air conditioners involve refrigerants and insulating foams that release ozone-depleting substances and greenhouse gases. Some, older appliances could contain mercury.
Most municipalities will pick up your old refrigerator, freezer or air conditioner with the bulk trash pick-up; however you will have to call to arrange for pick-up. For the state of Ohio, you can visit the Ohio EPA website and find out about programs in your area.
Primarily televisions and computer monitors involve a wide range of recyclable and potentially toxic materials including plastics, glass, steel, gold, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc and brominated flame retardants. These can be recycled and used again. Many major electronics manufacturers have programs in place to accept their old units when you purchase a new one. They are often joined by retail stores who have programs to collect these items for recycling in accordance with environmental laws. The programs can collect computers, monitors, fax machines, printers and all-in-one machines.
With your normal incandescent light bulbs, recycling usually does not factor into the equation. But with the wave of compact fluorescent lighting (CFL), recycling these bulbs is a factor now more than ever. These lamps contain trace amounts of mercury and although not regulated at the federal level, several states have banned the disposal of them in household trash.
Many towns offer recycling for CFLs at local recycling center or transfer stations. State requirements and recycling opportunities may vary. To find the programs in your area visit www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling.