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Recycling is Still RAD – Reflecting on Six Years of EPA Partnership

2012 December 12

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By Melissa Fiffer

Behind the wheel of a pick-up truck, driving the cardboard recycling route, is not where you would typically expect to find an undergraduate environmental science and policy major from New York City. But in my college days I was determined to figure out how I could help improve the environment, and decided I had to experience it for myself. That’s why I chose to do my work study assignment with the recycling service on campus. Sure enough, I learned a lot about the practical and financial ins and outs of recycling options. Perhaps more important, though, was the experience of collaborating with the recycling service and the students to reach common goals.

Nowadays I no longer drive a truck, just a compact car, but collaborating on recycling goals to protect the environment is a major part of my job here at EPA. I manage a voluntary partnership called the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program. On a typical day, I talk to appliance recyclers about the trends they’re seeing in components of old fridges, freezers, window air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Like recycling cardboard or aluminum, recycling appliances makes sense to minimize waste, and there are other important reasons, too. Refrigerants and foams, for example, often contain substances that can harm the ozone layer and climate system if they’re released rather than recovered at an appliance’s end-of-life. Or, I might chat with a partner utility about an upcoming campaign to collect and properly recycle old, inefficient fridges sitting in customers’ basements. Did you know that getting rid of a 20-year-old fridge could reduce your electricity bill by more than $115 per year?

Today, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the sixth anniversary of the RAD program, and welcoming our 50th partner, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. RAD partners include 43 utilities, four retailers, one manufacturer, and two state affiliates. Since 2006, partners have helped recycle nearly three million appliances, providing a climate benefit equal to keeping about 1.3 million cars off the road for one year, and can you imagine how much material they’ve kept out of landfills? There are 160 pounds of recyclable metals, plastic and glass in just one fridge. So, what are you waiting for?

If you’re buying a new, Energy Star qualified fridge this holiday season, the feeling of properly recycling your old one through a RAD partner would really add to your holiday cheer.

About the author: Melissa Fiffer has worked on environmental policy and partnerships for the federal government since 2007, when she signed on as a Presidential Management Fellow. She holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Her most RAD achievement was the day that her grandfather, still working in bulk food sales, gave in to her grandmother’s urging and recycled the fridge and chest freezer in their basement.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

One Response leave one →
  1. Kelly permalink
    December 12, 2012

    I recycled my old refrigerator last week. The process was extremely quick and easy. I now have a new refrigerator that looks great AND is energy efficient!

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