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Househould Hazardous Waste
Appliances (white goods)

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“White goods” is a term used to describe common household appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dryers, ovens, and other major appliances. We use these appliances almost every day to store and cook food, and to wash our clothes.

Many components of these appliances may be hazardous to human health and the environment if not properly disposed of.

Hazards:

 

Refrigerators and freezers use gases in their compressors to keep food cool. These gases are mostly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs such as Freon). CFCs are circulated in pipes throughout the appliance, where they are compressed on the back of the refrigerator and allowed to expand on the inside of the refrigerator, causing the gases to cool.

When these gases are contained within a closed system like this they pose no danger, however when they are released into the atmosphere they cause damage to the ozone layer. Without the ozone layer, harmful UV light can penetrate to the earth’s surface causing increased skin cancer rates, and genetic mutation in organisms without protective skin pigments.

Some of the electronic capacitors in older appliances may contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These are either solids or liquids and their colors can range from clear to yellow.

PCBs are not manufactured or used in appliances currently made in the United States, but PCBs already in the environment are very stable and do not break down quickly. These chemicals can bioaccumulate in fish and other organisms. PCBs are known to cause liver damage and developmental problems in children (including brain damage and birth defects).  PCBs are also a suspected carcinogen.

Light switches found in chest freezers and other appliances may contain mercury. The mercury is used in the switch to complete the electrical circuit and turn the light on when the lid is opened. There are also thermocouples and flame sensors in appliances that might also contain mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that can bioaccumulate in the environment. Long-term exposure to mercury can cause liver, kidney, and brain damage.

 

 

Storage/ Disposal:

 

  • Bring useable or repairable appliances to a company that can refurbish them for needy families.
  • Do not attempt to remove the coolant gases, capacitors, or switches from your appliances.
  • Bring unusable appliances to a local Municipal Solid Waste facility or transfer station in your area. Call ahead to find out about potentially removing the doors on refrigerators and freezers prior to drop off.

Where to take HHW:

Bring unusable appliances to a local Municipal Solid Waste facility or transfer station in your area. Call ahead to find out about potentially removing the doors on refrigerators and freezers prior to drop off.

 

Towns and solid waste districts hold hazardous waste collection events every year, two per year at minimum (spring and fall) and many common household hazardous wastes can be disposed of at these events. For more information and event scheduling, contact your solid waste district. Find contact information on the solid waste district contact list page. (Note: If you live in a village, fire district, etc., please select the town your village, fire district, etc. is in from the list. If your town is not a member of a district, contact information for your town clerk is provided.) 

Solid Waste Management Districts contact list

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated:
VT DEC Waste Management & Prevention Division 1 National Life Drive - Davis 1  Montpelier, VT  05620-3704  Tele: 802-828-1138  Fax: 802-828-1011

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