4 Eco-Friendly Ways to Recycle Appliances

When it's time to replace a broken or outdated refrigerator or oven, try one of these environmentally friendly ways to dispose of old appliances.

white kitchen with stainless steel fridge
Photo: John Granen

Before you haul off your once-beloved appliance to the landfill, consider that these machines often contain environmentally-harmful hazardous materials and gases, including mercury. For good reason, many municipalities have strict guidelines for their disposal. And improperly disposing of an appliance can carry a heavy fine. Try these responsible alternatives to recycle, sell, donate, or upcycle your broken or outdated appliances. 

1. Recycle Old Appliances

There are many options for appliance recycling. For small appliances, methods vary depending on the appliance type and where you live. Try taking your small appliance to a local recycling center, suggests Adam Roper, a renewable energy expert. “They will often have special days or weeks when they will accept even more appliances.” Many cities and towns have centers that accept large appliances, too. Look online to find the nearest center. 

When in doubt, Kerry Sherin, consumer advocate at Ownerly, says to contact your local trash or solid waste department to figure out the best way to recycle your appliance. “Bulky waste recycling programs often include big appliances,” Sherin says. “Some municipalities even offer a bulk collection day, where they will pick up any qualified items curbside.”

Depending on the appliance, your recycling facility may charge a fee. Roper says that fees can range from “$10-$20 for a refrigerator, $15-$35 for a dishwasher, and $25-$50 for a washing machine.” Naturally, bigger appliances may cost more than small ones. 

If you’re planning to replace your large appliance through a big-box store, many will haul away the old appliance for little or nothing. This isn’t just a beneficial gesture toward a loyal customer. They often refurbish and later resell the device.

Recycling Electronics

Electronic device recycling might look a little different. Roper says to first try the original manufacturer, as many companies have recycling programs that give discounts on new items in exchange for the old. Many electronics stores also have recycling bins or programs. Call2Recycle offers nationwide availability to drop off rechargeable batteries and cell phones. “Another option is to recycle through the Computer Technology Association's Recycle Locator or Earth911's extensive recycling database.” Last but not least, check your local municipality for an electronic recycling program. 

2. Sell Unwanted Appliances

If your appliance is in working order but no longer up to your standards, try selling it to someone who might appreciate it exactly as it is. Online classifieds, garage sales, yard sales, flea markets, and a whole host of sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace are all great options to help your item find its new forever home.

 “You never know who is looking for an older blender because it has a part they need to fix one they own,” Sherin says. Pawn shops and salvage yards might also be willing to buy your appliances for metal or parts.

washer dryer colorful striped floor graphic wallpaper subway tile
Adam Albright

3. Donate Appliances

If you have an item that works just fine, but it’s just no longer to your liking, don’t chuck it in the trash. Consider donating it to a local charity or thrift shop. 

Find a donation site by checking with your local community groups or nonprofit organizations like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Ask whether the group will pick up the item at your home or whether you'll need to drop it off at their site. Some donation sites also require appliances to be no older than a certain number of years. You can find the age of your machine using the Appliance 411 Date Code Search Service

4. Upcycle Appliances into Something New

There are plenty of ways to transform your old appliances into something new and useful. With a little creativity and imagination, Roper says you can upcycle almost anything. Work with crafters and creators to breathe new life into your clunky old household appliances. Use a broken toaster as a planter or a blender as a light fixture. Consider ways to retrofit or repurpose your items before tossing them for good.

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