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Program takes the problem of old refrigerators off residents’ hands

September 10, 2010
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

MARQUETTE - The change from summer to fall is usually an opportunity for households to pack away the outdoor lawn furniture, rake the lawn and do some general cleanup around the house. But what to do with the old, barely used refrigerator in the basement or garage?

Older models of refrigerators and freezers can use up to three times as much energy as newer models and if disposed of improperly in a landfill, can release serious pollutants into the environment.

Until Oct. 31, Michigan residents who are customers of several different power providers can get rid of their unwanted refrigerator units through Energy Optimization and Efficiency United, two state-wide efficiency programs.

Article Photos

Older refrigerator models can use three times as much energy as new models. To help retire those old models, state wide programs Energy Optimization and Efficiency United have contracted with JACO Environmental to pick up and recycle those old units. Above, Michigan Operations Manager Justin Mayviell loads a refrigerator onto a truck to be transported to the JACO facility near Detroit. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

Included in the Energy Optimization program are Alger Delta Electric, Cloverland Electric Cooperative, Great Lakes Energy, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Midwest Energy, Ontonagon County REA, Presque Isle Electric and Gas Co-op, Thumb Electric Cooperative, the city of Escanaba, the city of Stephenson, the Marquette Board of Light and Power and Newberry Water and Light Board.

Efficiency United includes the Alpena Power Company, Cloverland Electric Cooperative (previously Edison Sault Electric Company), Indiana Michigan Power, UPPCO, We Energies, the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Xcel Energy.

"The typical method has been to remove the freon and throw the rest into a landfill" said Justin Rainer, program manager for JACO Environmental, the company that dismantles and recycles the refrigerators collected through the two programs. "It's very detrimental when they're disposed of improperly."

Fact Box

"It's very detrimental when they're disposed of improperly."

- Justin Rainer, JACO Environmental

Instead of tossing the refrigerators in the landfill, JACO ensures the units cannot be used again as refrigerators by cutting the power cord and disabling them before they are loaded onto a truck and taken to the JACO facility near Detroit. The refrigerator is then broken down and 95 percent of its components recycled and made into different metal, plastic and glass products.

Recycling 25,000 refrigerators yields enough aluminum to produce 2.1 million aluminum cans and, by taking the less efficient units off the power grid, reduces carbon dioxide emissions equal to taking 50,000 cars off the road.

A recent participant in the program was Marquette Township resident Pauline Popko, who turned in a refrigerator she had originally purchased from a local thrift store and had been using for nine years.

"I paid $40 for it," Popko said of her original purchase of the fridge. "There was an ad in the paper and I had gotten a freezer for down in the basement.

"It's saving our environment anyway. You won't find them on the side of the road or in the woods."

Although originally started in California and with similar programs across the country, JACO has collected and dismantled 1,000 refrigerators in the U.P. since the beginning of this year.

Through the efficiency programs, customers of the participating electrical providers can arrange to have their old refrigerator unit picked up at their home and will receive $30 for participating in the program.

Eligible refrigerators and freezers must be plugged in and working at the time of the pick up, empty and be between 10 and 30 cubic feet. There is no age limit for the units.

To participate in the program, call 1-877-367-3191.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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