The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the RAD program in 2006 as a voluntary partnership program to protect the ozone layer and climate system. Through the RAD program, partners collect old refrigerant-containing appliances from consumers—namely refrigerators, freezers, window air-conditioning units and dehumidifiers—and responsibly dispose of them with the help of appliance recyclers. The appliance recyclers use best environmental practices to ensure that all appliance components are properly handled (see Figure 1). Specifically, they ensure that refrigerant and insulation foam/blowing agents are recovered and properly reclaimed or destroyed, durable goods are recycled and hazardous materials such as PCB capacitors, mercury switches and used oil are safely disposed.
While many of these disposal practices are required by law, RAD partners strive to go above and beyond regulatory requirements by recovering and managing appliance insulation foam, which contains blowing agents that are ozone-depleting substances and/or potent greenhouse gases. Typically in the U.S., the appliance foam (along with the whole appliance shell) is cut into pieces by auto shredders and then sent to landfill. Through this process, nearly all foam blowing agents are released into the atmosphere, which harms the ozone layer and/or contributes to climate change. RAD partners and recyclers properly handle appliance foam to achieve greater environmental benefits. RAD partners also commit to report on their program information to track their environmental benefits each year.
Today, the RAD program has grown to include 55 partners and affiliates, including 48 utility partners, four retailers, one manufacturer and two state affiliates, including the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority. Currently in New York, two utilities—National Grid and Long Island Power Authority—already process units to the RAD standard for their service regions. By the end of 2012, partners had helped properly dispose of nearly four million appliances.
Benefits by the Numbers
The environmental benefits associated with the proper disposal of each old refrigerator are significant. Refrigerants and blowing agents have direct global warming potentials (GWPs) up to 10,900—meaning that they are up to 10,900 times more effective at damaging the climate system than CO2 on an equal mass basis. Therefore, recovering these compounds, even in small quantities, can result in significant climate benefits.
In 2012 alone, RAD partners collected and processed over 886,000 refrigerated appliances, which resulted in avoided greenhouse gas emissions of more than 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2eq) (see Figure 2). It also resulted in avoided emissions of 274 ODP-weighted metric tons of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), and the recycling of over 145 million pounds of metals, plastic and glass.
Furthermore, RAD utility partners achieve additional benefits by permanently removing old, inefficient appliances from the electricity grid. This is important as studies estimate that up to 25 percent of disposed refrigerators and freezers are resold onto the secondary market, resulting in increased energy demand from the continued use of older, less-efficient models. During the first five years of the RAD program, utility partners reduced total energy use by roughly 13 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), equivalent to nearly 9 MMTCO2eq. This has saved consumers across America a cumulative total of $1.5 billion.
Why Join RAD?
In addition to benefitting the environment, RAD partnership allows companies to integrate appliance recycling into their sustainability strategy and track their impacts, as well as raise awareness among consumers about the importance of proper disposal. For example, many partners communicate with their customers and the general public through campaigns, including advertising materials, in-store displays, press releases and social media. Partners also receive technical support and recognition from the EPA. Recognition may include press releases, guest posts on EPA’s blogs, social media and EPA participation at partner media events. Partner press releases are also featured on the RAD web site (http://www.epa.gov/rad/newsroom.html) and an annual report is produced each year to document partner accomplishments.
Recycle the RAD Way Today!
If you want to see your organization represented in next year’s RAD report, or are curious about how to incorporate RAD into your appliance recycling program or sustainability strategy, please visit www.epa.gov/rad/joinrad, or contact Melissa Fiffer at (202) 343-9464 or Fiffer.Melissa@epa.gov. To view the 2012 Annual Report, please visit http://www2.epa.gov/rad/rad-annual-report.
For more information about recycling facilities that can service your area, please contact: