This is what happens to the environment when a fridge is not properly disposed of

Every year more than 200 000 refrigerators and freezers are not returned to an authorized processor. They just disappear, or so it seems to most of us.

Conveniently so.

Recupel – the non-profit association that deals with the collection and the processing of discarded electronic equipment and bulbs – has conducted a research to find out more on the matter.

The main issue is that when a refrigerator or freezer is not properly disposed of, the impact on the environment is catastrophic. A refrigerator contains extremely harmful coolants and expansion gases. If those substances are not correctly processed they cause damage to the ozone hole strengthening climate warming. In terms of CO2 emissions, a device that is not correctly recycled has the same impact of a 7 500 km car ride.

In 2018, 686 459 between refrigerators and freezers had been placed on the market. 5% of the old devices were offered a second life and are still used, while 425 612 were collected by Recupel, or one of its partners, and recycled. This means that 226 524 refrigerators and freezers went missing.


Ernest Brillo @ernest_brillo


According to the law, the producers of electronic devices should collect the old products and proceed them correctly. However, the old fridges contain precious metals, such as copper, iron and aluminum. Therefore, the scrap dealers offer 15 euros to kitchen builders and electrical traders to extract those materials from the fridges and then they resell them.

“Because of this parallel network, many refrigerators disappear from the radars and are not processed correctly. This quick way of profit only makes the environment loses twice: precious raw materials are not recycled and harmful substances end up in nature”, says Peter Sabbe, CEO of Recupel.

In order to convince the retailers to cooperate with Recuper, the non-profit association has launched the “Here we recycle well” quality label. In this way, when the consumer buys a new refrigerator can know which traders he can leave his old refrigerator with confidence. “We are very happy to see that many kitchen builders and electrical traders are supporting our action,” continues Sabber. Of course, the consumer can always bring his or her old fridge into one of Recupel’s collection points.