Here’s What You Need to Know About Appliance Recycling
We throw out 9.4 million tons of electronic waste every year in the US — and this includes household appliances. This unflattering figure beats any other country, but that’s not the worst part.
The worst part is that only 12.5% of this waste is recycled.
That’s bad news because modern appliances contain non-degradable pollutants that pose a direct threat to our environment. Recycling is the only proper way of disposing of your old stove or freezer.
But how, where, and what appliances can we recycle? This brief guide answers everything you wanted to know about appliance recycling.
Dos and Don’ts When Disposing of Your Old Appliances
DON’T: Throw them away
Today’s appliances contain hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, polyvinyl chloride, as well as flame retardants.
These chemicals can seep from landfills into groundwater or open bodies of water. Plastic components that catch fire can gas off carcinogenic dioxins.
It doesn’t surprise then that as of 2017, 22 states including California, Illinois, and Massachusetts have already banned appliances from landfills. 
DO: Donate them
Donating to charities like the American Council of the Blind and Goodwill is a humane and nature-friendly way of getting rid of unwanted appliances.
The Salvation Army, on the other hand, will even schedule a pick up at your convenience and often issue you a tax donation receipt on the spot.
Of course, if the appliance no longer works, donating isn’t an option.
DO: Recycle them
Recycling is definitely the best way to dispose of unwanted appliances from both an economic and environmental stance.
For example, many utility companies have credit programs for buying new appliances and recycling old ones.
One of the best policy supports for e-waste will be payment of a deposit to consumers who return their e-products to central collection points.
John Mathews, Professor of Competitive Dynamics and Global Strategy, Macquarie University, Sydney
Recycling also allows us to salvage scrap metal that would otherwise have to be processed from ore. An average appliance is made of 75% recycled steel, and 10% of steel recycled in the US is sourced from home appliances.
Besides steel, materials in appliances like glass, plastic, refrigerants, oils, and other metals can also be salvaged and reused.
Recycling also makes sure that no toxic materials will leak into the environment.
Why is Appliance Recycling Important?
Appliance recycling is important because it’s the only environmentally-friendly way of disposing of broken or unused appliances. Scrap metal in a recycled appliance can be reused, while the hazardous materials in it are treated so they pose no threat to the environment.
Here are more reasons why it’s important.
It’s better for the environment.
According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, recycling metal can cut emissions by between 300 and 500 million tons. What is more, using scrap metal instead of “new” ore reduces mining waste by 97%.
Also, Energy Information Association (EIA) data shows that over 9 million refrigerators/freezers and 6 million window air conditioning units are disposed of each year.
And unless these appliances are recycled, the liquid refrigerant in them like Freon can leak out into the atmosphere and contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. In fact, as an HFC (hydrofluorocarbon), Freon’s global warming potential is 90 and 12,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 
It can help reduce your energy consumption.
Manufacturers that meet rigorous energy-efficiency standards mark their products with the Energy Star label. According to the EPA, Energy Star appliances can save 30% on energy costs.
Aging water heaters are among the most notorious energy consumers. If all residential water heaters in the US were Energy Star labeled, the energy savings would amount to $13.4 billion a year.
By disposing of old water heaters through responsible appliance recycling programs, you can reduce your energy consumption and shave a few dollars off your energy bill every month.
You need it to comply with the law.
There are several disposal bans and mandatory recycling laws in the United States. In the State of California, for example, “white goods” i.e. household appliances are banned from all types of listed disposal facilities.
You can find detailed laws and regulations related to disposal bans and mandatory recycling at California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) website here.
You can earn from it.
You can sell bulky appliances with metal shells and electric motors such as air conditioners, dishwashers, and washing machines for scrap metal.
Like wheat and oil and gold, recycled commodities like aluminum, paper, metals, and plastics have value.
Eric Goldstein, Senior Attorney at the National Resources Defense Council
If an appliance is in working condition, you can sell it online. There are always people who’d rather pay a fraction of the price for working items than buy a new one.
There are also some who are willing to take vintage appliances off your hands. Old school gamers, for example, are always looking for old CRT TVs to pair with their 80s and 90s gaming consoles.
What Appliances Can Be Recycled?
Appliances that can be recycled are:
After recycling your broken or unused appliances, you'd most probably want to replace them with new ones that are more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. The best place you can start with is in the kitchen.
A lot of people have been raving about the Instant Pot Smart WiFi 8-in-1 for quite a while now, and honestly, we can't blame them.
It's a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, cake maker, sauté pan, steamer, and warmer — all in one appliance. This particular version can even connect to wifi and is compatible with Alexa.
It saves you the need to buy many different appliances separately, which is good for your pocket.
This also means that there will be fewer appliances to dispose of in the future, which is great for the environment.
Another reason why we and thousands of other people like the Instant Pot so much is this: You can make complicated dishes with it in less than an hour because its cook times are 3 times faster than that of a standard slow cooker.
And that's not even the best part. The best part is, because it cooks fast, it also consumes 70% less energy.
Our only concern about it is you need to sign up for an account to be able to use its wifi functionality, but you can probably get around it by using a temporary email instead of your real email to sign up.
Another kitchen appliance people swear by is the famous KitchenAid Countertop Mixer.
The KitchenAid brand has been a household name for decades, with some people even treating their stand mixers like heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation because of their durability.
Nowadays, some of the newer KitchenAid mixers have more plastic parts and break down more easily, sending more appliances to the landfills.
This one is different though.
The gear box is all metal, making it something that will last for years. This goes back to the old style craftsmanship that the brand is known for.
Our complaint about it is the price can be a bit steep, but if you think about it, it actually ends up being a whole lot cheaper than other stand mixers because you won't need to replace it for another 15 to 30 years. Yup, this one's an heirloom all right.
As you've probably noticed, we like multi-use appliances so much, and it's all because they lessen the need to buy more appliances that might eventually just end up in the landfill.
This Bagotte Air Fryer is no different. It can air fry, roast, bake, and grill. And, similar to the Instant Pot, it cooks fast, so it uses only a fraction of the electricity that other appliances use.
And its eco-friendliness doesn't stop there.
Since it uses only hot circulating air to fry foods, it doesn't need any oil at all to make perfectly cooked fries, chicken, fish, sausages — anything really.
This means that you won't need to dispose of a large amount of oil.
As you know, improper disposal of oil can cause damage to your pipes and to public tunnel systems, which can lead to environmental hazards. So the less oil you use at home, the better.
The only thing about it is it's a bit larger than expected. However, this means that it can fully accommodate an entire chicken that can feed your whole family, so maybe the size isn't really a bad thing at all.
How to Recycle Appliances
Appliances can be recycled by either bringing them to drop off locations or scheduling an appliance pickup. Recycling centers typically have their drop-off/pickup procedures that are simple and easy to follow.
This is what happens next after you drop-off your items in one of those centers:
- The recycling center will bring your items to an onsite electronics facility.
- On-site technicians who are trained to handle hazardous materials will recover the toxins from your appliances using EPA-certified equipment.
- The appliances are then separated into individual components (copper tubing, wiring, motors, compressors) for recycling.
- Once those components are removed, the leftover metal gets sent to a metal shredding facility.
- From here, qualified scrap metal goes to mills and converted to steel. This process uses 74% less energy than making steel from virgin iron ore.
Scrap metal in a recycled appliance can be reused, while the hazardous materials in it are treated so they pose no threat to the environment.
Where to Recycle Appliances
You can recycle your appliances at private or government-sponsored recycling centers. You can find them by using our Green Directory.
Just enter the appliance type and your zip code, and you’ll be directed to the appliance recycle center closest to you that will accept your items.
No, Home Depot does not recycle appliances at their stores. You can take the items to an appliance recycling center instead, or you can call your city’s trash collection service.
Yes, you can get your money for old appliances. Retailers often pay consumers when they replace an old machine for an energy-efficient model. Samsung, for example, has a user-friendly rebate center that lists all available rebates by appliance type and location. You can also sell bulkier appliances for scrap metal.
You can recycle your old stove with a private junk removal company that operates a recycling center, or through bulky waste collection programs. Ask at your local solid waste office to schedule a curbside pickup. This way the item goes through a government recycling service, such as the RAD (Responsible Appliance Disposal). 
Charities like the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity ReStores will pick up your working refrigerator for free. Some big-box stores may also offer to pick up your old refrigerator at the same time they deliver a new one.
Yes, Home Depot may take your old refrigerator at an additional charge when they deliver your new one.
Lowes works with a third party to recycle old appliances. This is common practice with many big-box retailers. Some Lowes stores pile appliances headed for recycling in the open, typically behind the store. This leads to a popular myth that those units are free for the picking, but in fact, they are just being readied for recycling.
Yes, you can scrap old appliances with metal parts, but sometimes the amount of salvaged material in small ones isn't worth the scrap removal and separation process. Larger pieces such as air conditioners and refrigerators, on the other hand, are easier to take apart and would yield more metal.
Yes, you can take a dishwasher to the dump, but there are a limited number of states that allow disposing of “white goods” at landfills. Make sure to check the legislation for your state before you take any action.
Yes, Waste Management takes refrigerators. Each customer account is granted one free curbside bulky waste pickup per year. Residents can also dispose of refrigerators, air conditioners, and other bulky waste during an annual bulk waste and appliance disposal event sponsored by Waste Management.
No, you can’t put a toaster in the recycling bin because it will likely be crushed by the truck compactor. Pieces of plastic, glass, and circuits will then contaminate other recyclable materials and make them unusable. As a rule, you should never place small appliances or electronics in the recycling bin.
You can dispose of small electrical appliances by donating them to a charity or a thrift store. Just make sure they’re still in working condition. You can also recycle electric appliances. Check your zip code for the nearest appliance removal center to you using our Green Directory service.
No, you can’t put a microwave in the recycling bin. Microwaves, coffee makers, and other programmable appliances use circuit boards that contain heavy metals. These contaminants need to be separated from other recyclable parts by experts. This is why microwaves and similar appliances should only be recycled through dedicated electronics recycling programs.
Although we in the US generate huge amounts of electrical waste every year, only a fraction of it is recycled.
That’s unfortunate because one benefit of recycling is it can reduce energy consumption through rebate programs that motivate people to replace inefficient and broken appliances with greener ones.
Another benefit of recycling is when you do it with a reputable center, you can be sure that the scrap metal returns into production, and no hazardous materials will leak into the environment.
Next time you need to dispose of an appliance, make your day greener by using our Green Directory service at the top of this page to look for the appliance recycling center closest to you.
Want more articles on how you can be a green citizen? Read our blog here.
Looking to get a new appliance after you've recycled your old one? Our Green Store has got you covered.
Nikola uses his background in electrical engineering to break down complex sustainability topics for GreenCitizen’s readers. He is a firm believer in environmental conservation, which he practices daily through recycling and home-grown food. He enjoys hiking, white-water sports, and collecting pocket knives.