In 2012, EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program celebrated six years and 50 partners. EPA launched the RAD program in 2006 as a voluntary partnership program to help protect the ozone layer and climate system. In its first year, RAD partnered with nine utilities. Just over six years later, RAD has grown to include 45 utilities, four retailers (Sears, Best Buy, Appliance Smart, Home Depot), one manufacturer (General Electric Appliances), and two state affiliates.
Through the RAD program, partners collect old refrigerant-containing appliances (refrigerators, freezers, window air-conditioning units and dehumidifiers) from consumers and responsibly dispose of them with the help of an appliance recycler. The appliance recycler uses best environmental practices to ensure that refrigerant and insulation foam/blowing agent are recovered and properly handled; durable goods are recycled; and hazardous materials such as PCB capacitors, mercury switches and used oil are disposed of properly.
RAD partners strive to go above and beyond the regulatory requirements under the Clean Air Act through recovery and management of insulation foam. The substance that expands the insulation foam — i.e., the blowing agent — is typically a substance that can harm the ozone layer and/or climate system if not properly handled at the appliance’s end-of-life. RAD partners and recyclers have three main approaches for handling appliance foam to achieve greater environmental benefits: manual, semi-automated and fully automated. The automated processes include recovery of the blowing agent. For an example of advancements in appliance recycling technology, visit GE’s partner site.
From 2007 through 2011, RAD partners have helped recycle nearly three million appliances. Annual reporting helps EPA track partners’ progress towards achieving recycling goals. Partners’ proper handling of the refrigerant and insulating foam has resulted in avoided emissions of about 2.3 million pounds of chemicals that harm the ozone layer. Partners have also prevented emissions of about 6.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, roughly equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 1.3 million passenger cars for one year.
RAD partners also help keep communities clean and safe by properly handling hazardous waste and keeping recyclable materials out of landfills. In 2011 alone, partners recycled nearly 145 million pounds of metals, plastic and glass.
Studies estimate that up to 25% 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. Therefore, permanently removing old, inefficient appliances from the electricity grid also yields significant energy savings. On average, refrigerators collected by RAD utility partners in 2011 were over 20 years old. From 2007 through 2011, utility partners reduced total energy use by roughly 13 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), equivalent to nearly 9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. This has saved consumers across America a cumulative total of $1.5 billion. For an example of a successful utility appliance recycling program, take a look at the press surrounding the recycling of Southern California Edison’s 1 millionth appliance.
RAD partners have the opportunity to integrate appliance recycling into their companies’ sustainability strategies by not only promoting new appliances that earn the ENERGY STAR®, but also communicating with consumers about what happens to the appliances when they reach the end of their usable life. Proper appliance recycling can lower a company’s carbon footprint by helping to account for and maximize the environmental benefits attainable throughout the life of an appliance. Partners communicate with consumers and the general public through a variety of campaigns, including advertising materials, in-store displays, press releases and social media. For example, Sears posted this video as part of its Big Switch campaign.
The RAD program works closely with partner companies to help support their programs and recognize their achievements, taking a multimedia approach that may include press releases, guest posts on EPA’s blogs, social media and EPA participation at partner media events. Partner company press releases are also featured on the RAD web site.
Want to see your brand represented in next year’s RAD report? Curious about how to incorporate RAD into your sustainability strategy? Find out more about how you can maximize your company’s efforts to protect the ozone layer and climate system.