What Warwick Residents Need to Know about Recycling Appliances with Refrigerants

When hundreds of scientists from around the world collaborated to rank the 100 most important solutions to the climate crisis, how could it be that “Refrigerant Management” was the #1 solution? What happened to solar panels and wind turbines?

According to the Drawdown Project, wind turbines rank #2 (for onshore turbines) and #22 (for offshore turbines), while solar farms are ranked #8 and rooftop solar is ranked #10. But refrigerants, like the ones we find in household appliances (like refrigerators, freezers, and dehumidifiers) and in other products (spray aerosols), are such intense greenhouse gases, that properly managing them could prevent warming of 1 degree Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That’s about 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is a big deal considering all the discussions we hear about trying to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2.0 degrees Celsius. 

Following the landmark Montreal Protocol (1987), countries around the world began phasing out earlier refrigerants that were depleting the ozone, and now the UN is predicting the ozone will fully recover to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070. But the replacement refrigerants (like the original ones) are incredibly intense greenhouse gases. 

How intense are they?

A typical air conditioner holds 15.5 ounces of R410A, a common refrigerant; that much R410A has the same carbon footprint as 107 gallons of gasoline, enough to drive a Prius 5,350 miles (at 50 mpg), which would go from Warwick to Las Vegas, Nevada — and back! (An average car (at 24+ mpg), could make it to Las Vegas with gas to spare.)

A typical refrigerator holds 5 ounces of R134A, another common refrigerant. That little bit of R134A would  have the same carbon footprint as 23 gallons of gasoline, enough to drive a Prius from Warwick to Florida. (That’s Tampa, Florida, not the Village of Florida!)

These examples illustrate how important it is for all appliances with refrigerants to be properly recycled. Please keep in mind, when refrigerants are in well-sealed machinery, they are fine — it’s only when refrigerant coils get ruptured that they leak. So, when an appliance with refrigerants stops working, the best practice is to take it for proper recycling as soon as convenient. 

How Do We Recycle Appliances in Warwick?

For working refrigerators or freezers, contact O&R or call 866-552-3755. They’ll come pick up your old appliance and pay you $50! 

For any other appliance with refrigerants (like a dehumidifier or a water cooler) and for non-working refrigerators and freezers, take them to the Orange County Transfer Station:

21 Training Center Lane

New Hampton, NY 10958

Phone: 845-291-2640

Note that the Transfer Station will charge $15 to take an appliance with refrigerants off your hands. Some of us are working to have this charge reduced, but in the meantime, please don’t let this keep you from doing your part!  The fee does not stay with Orange County, rather it goes to the company that does the work of recycling refrigerants. (This fee is similar to the one we pay when we have our car emissions checked and certified as being within acceptable limits. Both fees contribute to the common good by limiting or eliminating the amount of pollution we are passing on to others.)

How will you remember these instructions down the road when your appliance actually needs to be recycled?

Duct tape is the answer! 

Find an unobtrusive spot on your appliance, tape over it, and write something memorable with a Sharpie: 

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How do refrigerant emissions react in the atmosphere?

This video is quite detailed, but it gives a good review of the science involved.

After an appliance is taken to the transfer station, what do they do with it and why do they charge $15?

The transfer stations in Orange County, NY, all charge residents $15 for each appliance with refrigerant. The money is given to a refrigerant recovery company. That company has HVAC technicians use hoses and valves and pumps to transfer the refrigerant from the appliances into pressurized tanks. (Check out this video for details on that part of the job.) Then they take the refrigerant tanks back to their plant, where they use industrial processes to clean the refrigerants and restore them to industry standards for re-use. (Once the refrigerant is removed, the scrap metal left over from the appliance is processed with other scrap metal at the transfer station.)

What is Project Drawdown?

You can start learning about it right here.

How do you calculate that 15.5 ounces of R410A has the same carbon footprint as 107 gallons of gasoline?

Burning one gallon of gasoline (with 10% ethanol) creates 18.9 pounds of CO2. This is true whether the gasoline is burned in a fuel efficient car or a gas guzzler or is just set afire. 

R410A is known to have a Global Warming Potential of 2088. This means 1 pound of R410A has the same greenhouse gas effect as 2088 pounds of CO2, and 15.5 ounces of R410A has the same greenhouse gas effect as 2023 pounds of CO2 (i.e., 2088 X 15.5/16).

2023/18.9 = 107 gallons.