By Liz White, UT editor
Hayward, California-The latest in robotic recycling technology started up at JACO Environmental Inc.'s recycling plant in Hayward in early November, to convert discarded energy-wasting refrigerators into reusable materials and even additional electricity.
The robotic recycling device, manufactured and patented by SEG Umwelt-Service/Basis of Germany, is a "new high-tech approach," says Jaco, and features a 'claw' device that will grab refrigerators and safely extract contaminants.
As well a consuming up to five times the energy required by newer, more efficient refrigerators, "old refrigerators contain a toxic brew that includes mercury, oil and ozone-eating chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from foam insulation," says a JACO press release.
Old fridges pose a significant threat to the environment when improperly discarded. JACO has established a partnership with PG&E to prevent this by encouraging people to turn over their old refrigerators for recycling.
Before 1994, most refrigerators did not meet current energy efficiency standards, JACO says.New technology will also make it easier to recover insulation foam that contains CFCs, the firm added. In particular, foam insulation containing CFC 11 is combustible and when safely incinerated can be used to generate electricity. "On average, each old fridge contains the equivalent of seven kilowatts of electricity that can be added to the power grid," JACO said.
The recycler added that this technology will "dramatically increase efficiency" by automating first part of the recycling process. By eliminating the need to manually recycle refrigerators, JACO can dismantle one refrigerator a minute, where previously is could only manage one every 10 minutes.
"… in the case of old refrigerators, we're not only recycling, we're protecting the environment and converting these old energy hogs to produce a little extra electricity. It's a win-win-win situation," said Michael Dunham, JACO's director of energy and environmental programs, in the JACO statement.
And JACO adds that, while many recyclers only handle the refrigerant freon and the metals, every JACO facility properly recycles and disposes of virtually all components of the appliance.
JACO conducts a refrigerator recycling programme throughout utility supplier PG&E's Northern California territory. This includes the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. PG&E customers who call freephone no 1-800-299-7573 to schedule a pickup of a refrigerator will receive a $35 incentive from the utility.
PG&E's programme is targeted at second refrigerators people keep in their garage or basement. "Most serve little or no purpose while eating up valuable energy," said JACO.