Do scrap metal collectors take fridges?

Junk Removal Advice:

The answer to this question is both a simple and complex one. Yes, many scrap metal collectors take residential and commercial fridges to gain access to recyclable metals. Refrigerators contain several valuable types, including aluminum, copper, iron and steel. Yet, refrigerators aren’t easy appliances to disassemble for scrap purposes:

A scrap metal collector who takes fridges must have a license to dispose of the refrigerant used inside of the appliance to keep everything cool. Otherwise, they must hire an HVAC technician or other licensed specialist to remove and dispose of it for them. In many cases, collectors can’t make enough money from the metals found in a refrigerator to justify the expense unless they have a bulk collection setup. If you’re trying to scrap an older fridge, refrigerant removal is especially important because your appliance likely contains a non-combustible, greenhouse gas known as R-12 or Freon-12 that, when released into the air, damages the ozone layer around our planet over time.

Cost and safety problems related to refrigerant disposal are only two of many things you must consider when choosing whether to call a scrap metal collector about your fridge. Consider the following:

How Much Is Your Fridge Worth?

If your used refrigerator still works, you can typically make more money by trading it in, selling it via a classified ad or yard sale or donating it to a charitable organization for a tax break than by attempting to recycle it at a local recycling center or metal scrap yard. Beyond refrigerant disposal concerns, recyclers also fail to see a lot of value from refrigerator scrap value because of disassembly time. They mostly prefer receiving refrigerators from owners who have disassembled the appliances and separated the scrap metal parts into piles by type.

When a recycling center or scrap yard agrees to take your whole fridge, you can expect to receive only a few pennies per pound for it, which means that you might only make $12 or less for the entire haul when your fridge weighs approximately 200 pounds. Some recycling centers and scrap yards do pay more if you perform all the work first and remove all valuable metal components and then weigh the non-recyclable-metal elements separately from the recyclable metal ones. That said, depending on the age and size of your fridge, its cosmetic appearance and your geographic location, you can potentially trade it in for $50 or more toward the purchase of a new one through an appliance or home improvement retailer or manufacturer or sell it for several hundred dollars. If you’re attempting to sell a newer used refrigerator that looks and works well and has the Energy Star® certification label created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy that confirms product energy efficiency, you can demand top dollar.

Tip: Since the amount you receive for valuable metals can vary by geographic location and recycling center or scrap yard, call your local recyclers to determine the prices they’re willing to pay for a whole refrigerator versus a disassembled one.

Trade-In vs. Selling vs. Donation

The previously mentioned alternative options to scrapping come with downsides as well. So, it’s important that you understand all of these options:

With a trade-in scenario, you approach a retailer or manufacturer with the offer to trade in your used refrigerator for a dollar amount that you then agree to apply to the total pre-tax and pre-delivery purchase price of a new one. Retailers and manufacturers are uniquely positioned to recycle your used fridge as parts or a refurbished unit much more quickly and efficiently than any other option, including metal scrap collectors and junk removal firms. That said, you might have to pay a retrieval or refrigerant disposal fee to the retailer or manufacturer, which lowers the trade-in amount.

With a direct sale of your refrigerator to an individual, group or business, you won’t pay anything unless you have to physically deliver it. You directly make the amount of money promised to you. In many instances, these transactions are cash ones. As a result, you might need to consider safety measures to protect against contracting SARS-CoV-2, such as moving the fridge outside yourself instead of allowing the buyer and anyone with them into your home, wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer and setting the money aside for a day.

With a donation, you approach an organization that takes charitable gifts from members of the community, such as a non-profit thrift store, school or church. You receive no direct compensation. Instead, the organization supplies you with a receipt that details their name and contact details, a statement about their tax-exempt status and tax ID number, your name and contact details, the date of the donation, the type of gift, the model number and the value of the fridge. It’s important to note that tax-deductible charitable donations must be in good-to-excellent condition.

Extra Expenses to Consider

Whether you decide to trade-in, sell, donate or recycle your refrigerator, you can expect to spend money on extra related expenses. If you trade-in your fridge, you might again have to pay the retailer or manufacturer for pickup and refrigerant disposal. Beyond those fees, you might also pay for extra warranty coverage on the new fridge.

Most recycling centers and scrap yards and many charitable organizations refuse to pick up appliances, which means that you must pay additional money for gas to drop off your refrigerator. If you don’t have a pickup truck or other large enough vehicle, you must also pay for a rental and potentially additional auto insurance to cover it. If you can’t reach the location without using a toll road or bridge, you must pay those extra fees.

Lastly, if you don’t have anyone to help you lift your refrigerator into the vehicle, then you might have to pay a neighbor or moving firm to assist. You might need to buy or rent a large moving dolly cart and straps. If you choose to take your fridge to a scrap yard, you might also need to pay someone to go with you to help you unload and move the fridge onto the scrap yard’s weight scale platform.

What About Self-Scrapping?

As already mentioned, refrigerators are difficult to scrap. That said, it’s not an impossible task. If you’re willing to pay for refrigerant disposal, then you can technically scrap this appliance on your own. You must follow certain safety precautions though to protect yourself from accidental injury. For example, you need to wear thick work gloves and long pants and sleeves. You also need a variety of tools, including wire and pipe cutters and a drill. As long as the refrigerator is unplugged and emptied of any fluids, then you merely need to know which parts are the most valuable:

All electrical cords and covered wires typically contain copper, which means that you want to remove those and put them in a copper pile. Your fridge also contains a sealed compressor unit and fan motor unit. You don’t need to open either to access the copper since scrap collectors buy the whole unit.

Copper tubing is also recyclable. Keep in mind that wearing thick gloves as you cut it can protect your hands from injury. Place each cut tube in a separate pile away from the wire copper pile since tube copper is thicker and has been exposed to chemicals and fluids.

Once you’ve removed the copper components, you can focus on the other metals. A simple magnet and your drill can help you separate aluminum and non-ferrous metal parts from iron and steel ones.

As you can guess, the process to remove all of these metals typically takes hours. For this reason, self-scrapping isn’t an effective way to dispose of an old refrigerator in terms of the amount of money you can make in relation to the amount of time you put into disassembly and metal retrieval. You also still need to dispose of the non-recyclable parts, which can result in the extra expenses previously mentioned related to hauling those parts away for disposal. Worse yet, if you decide to inappropriately remove and dispose of any refrigerants on your own, you can face fines between a couple thousand and tens of thousands of dollars from local, state and federal environmental protection agencies.

Additional Options to Scrapping

Home and business owners and renters who have unwanted refrigerators often believe that they can dispose of this type of appliance through their municipal waste or private trash collector. Many of these waste disposal sites won’t take refrigerators because of the refrigerants. If your trash collector does accept fridges and other appliances, you might have to wait several months for pickup during a “seasonal” bulk waste event that only occurs once or twice yearly. You may also still need to hire a licensed professional to remove the refrigerant separately beforehand. Additionally, your municipality likely requires the removal of the door or doors for safety reasons so that any nearby children don’t accidentally become trapped inside your refrigerator while it’s outside and suffocate.

What other alternative options are available?

Contact your utility company. Some electricity suppliers buy used refrigerators and other appliances for $25 or more. They typically apply the purchase amount toward your next month’s bill.

Upcycle your fridge into something functional. Once you remove the refrigerant, you might position your fridge on its back on or near your patio, attach wood panels or build a block wall around it and affix panels to the freezer and lower doors to create an outdoor ice chest cooler and counter. If you like to grow plants, consider using the shelves as trays under seedling pots and plastic or metal drawers as planters. Some people who own retro fridges repaint them and use them as shelving units for books and collectibles, pantry items and spices or wine. If you have flat doors, you might coat them with black chalk paint and hang them as message boards.

Turn the parts into artwork. Although a refrigerator can be both functional and a piece of art, consider making the fridge itself disappear into new artworks. For example, you might remove the fan blade and hang items off of it in a hanging mobile or affix it to wall art that incorporates fan blades of varying sizes. If you can safely remove and clean the metal grille, you might use it as a background for photographs, prints or a painting or weave yarn, string or braided cord through it like a loom to create a hanging piece of woven art.

Hiring a Junk Removal Company

Although professional junk removal has been touched on briefly, it’s important to discuss separately the ins and outs of hiring a junk removal company before you make a decision about refrigerator disposal. Professional junk removal companies make it easier for home and business owners and renters to dispose of unwanted appliances. That said, you pay them for this service. Why then does anyone use a professional junk hauler?

Since many municipalities and private trash collectors and landfills won’t take refrigerators, professional junk removal companies have to maintain contacts with other companies that can help them with disposal. They also need to protect their reputations by always choosing environmentally friendly disposal methods. When you invest in their services, you can breathe a sigh of relief because you know that they’re not dumping your fridge in a landfill somewhere.

The best companies don’t merely stay in contact with you via phone calls. They offer full online services, including email, text message and app notifications. When they schedule with you, they provide you with regular updates so that you know if they’re going to arrive on time or need to reschedule. Some firms also provide you with an electronic invoice.

Most companies offer beneficial pickup options, including same or next day pickup, a moving team and curbside pickup. With the pandemic, some companies offer a discount when people place their junk outside or at the curb for pickup. That said, you might face extra moving-related expenses, which might negatively offset any financial benefit you receive from the discount.

Some junk removers use their service to give back to the community. Although you won’t see a tax deduction, you can find junk haulers who guarantee that they donate or sell at a low price any items that are in reasonably good shape. A hauler might make certain that your fridge finds a good home in a school, shelter or community center.

A junk removal company might give you an additional discount if you dispose of more items than just your refrigerator with them at the same time. After all, when you provide them with bulk junk collection, you’re giving them more items that they can possibly make additional money off of in the long run through resale or charitable donation.

Tip: Before moving forward with professional junk removal, call several local junk haulers and ask about their fees. Make certain at the same time to ask about their disposal methods so that you can choose both an affordable and eco-friendly or charitable option.

In Conclusion

As you have now learned, some metal scrap collectors do take whole refrigerators and also piles of separate valuable metal parts pulled from fridges, but they’re not necessarily your best option or the only one available. You have a wide range of choices for recycling your refrigerator. How you go about it depends entirely on what you hope to gain from your efforts. Before you decide, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Do you need a new fridge?
  • Do you want to make money?
  • Do you want to give to others?
  • Do you need fast and easy disposal?
  • Do you have the time to remove parts?
  • Do you mind making an upcycled investment?
  • Do you have a budget for moving-related costs?

The information outlined in this guide is designed to help you make an informed decision about residential and commercial junk removal. Unless you’re facing a deadline with a home or business relocation, room or building renovation or some other scenario that requires you to get rid of your refrigerator as quickly as possible, take the time to determine your goal. Don’t rush the decision. Consider all of the pros and cons related to each refrigerator and scrap metal disposal option.

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