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Cash for trash

John Seelmeyer

You get $30 for your old refrigerator, Sierra Pacific Power Co.

pays less to buy power, and JACO Environmental turns a buck recycling darned everything in your refrigerator except the smell from that leftover burrito you forgot to throw away.

Sierra Pacific this summer once again launched a program to pick up older, spare refrigerators for free, paying participants $30 for each one that’s recycled.

During the past two years, Sierra Pacific collected more than 2,500 refrigerators and freezers.

For the power company, the benefits of the program are obvious.

Those 2,500 refrigerators and freezers picked up during the past couple of years represented nearly 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

That’s enough to power about 450 homes for a year, says Bob Balzar, director of energy efficiency and customer strategy for Sierra Pacific.

Along with the $30 they’re paid when JACO Environmental picks up an old refrigerator, consumers save $150 to $200 a year by replacing refrigerators that are 10 years old with newer models.

And here’s how Jaco Environmental makes a buck with a recycling program that’s been recognized by the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency for its efficiency and effectiveness: The company, based at Snohomish, Wash., contracts with utilities such as Sierra Pacific throughout the West.

The companies pay JACO to remove refrigerators, paying a price that’s less than the cost the utilities would pay to generate electricity to run the old appliances.

But that’s not enough to ensure that JACO will turn a profit on the recycling program, says Michael Dunham, its director of energy and environmental programs.

That comes from an aggressive effort to recycle every possible bit of the old refrigerators.

JACO picks up refrigerators and freezers in northern Nevada, first making sure that they still work.

“If they don’t work, they don’t consume electricity,” says Dunham.

From northern Nevada, they’re taken to a recycling center at Hayward, Calif.

(The company hopes to have a recycling center in Nevada within a year.) There, samples are taken to determine what type of insulation and coolant the unit contains.

Refrigerants are sucked out of the appliances, 10 units at a time, and recycled.

Insulation is cleaned up and recycled.

Remaining hazardous materials are destroyed at high heat.

Meanwhile, a hole is drilled in the appliances’ compressors and oil is drained.

The oil, cleaned up, is sold as fuel to fire a concrete plant.

Glass and metal shelves are removed and recycled.

The tempered glass, Dunham says, has found uses ranging from aggregate in concrete to dust control on country roads.

The remaining metals and plastics are sold to recyclers.

All that’s left, Dunham says, are gaskets and a few other bits of the old refrigerator items that represent about 2 percent of the appliance’s initial weight.

They’re discarded in landfills.

JACO recycles about 1,000 refrigerators a day in seven Western states, Dunham says.

The Sierra Pacific program will run through September or until it’s spent all the funds it has available.

(To schedule a pickup, call (877) 811-8700 or visit http://www.appliancerecycling.

com.)


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