Getting Friendly With Your Fridge

June 5, 1998

By Michael Jessen

This is a story about a refrigerator that went to the landfill three times and a Castlegar man who (hopefully) learned he should have done it right the first time.

On his initial trip to the Ootischenia Landfill near Castlegar, attendant Dianna Kurbotoff told the unidentified man refrigerators are accepted for $3 only when bearing a sticker from a certified remover of freon, the coolant in the refrigerator's coils.

Freon is the brand name of a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) which has been implicated in the destruction of the Earth's ozone layer. According to the Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) Regulation of 1993, the venting into the atmosphere of any ODS is prohibited.

In Castlegar, Arrow Lakes Air Conditioning & Mechanical Systems and Castlegar Plumbing and Heating are qualified freon removers. The former charges $35 plus GST and will take the refrigerator to the landfill for you; the latter charges $50, or $55 plus GST if they take it to the landfill.

Our unidentified man with the refrigerator obviously knew about the charges because he told Ms. Kurbotoff he was not paying "any $35."

The man was rightly refused entry to the landfill only to return a short time later with the same refrigerator minus its door and compressor and remnants of freon dripping from some remaining coils. Again he was refused entry because the refrigerator still bore no sticker from a certified freon remover.

After a number of telephone calls between the man, the attendant and the Regional District of Central Kootenay, the man again left the landfill with the refrigerator.

Some time later the man and the refrigerator -- complete with the required sticker -- returned to the landfill and on payment of the $3 charge he was finally allowed to dispose of the refrigerator.

Let's be really clear. No refrigerators are accepted at landfills or transfer stations operated by either the RDCK or the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary unless they bear a sticker indicating there is no freon in the unit. And the regional districts will not accept refrigerators if it appears the owner has tried to vent the freon.

"This is against the law and if I was convicted of doing it, I would be fined $200,000," said the operator of Technika Appliances in Nelson, another qualified freon remover whose company charges $20 to remove it; $28 if you also want them to take it for disposal; and $45 if they have to come to your house to remove the refrigerator.

Columbia Recycle, located in the Genelle industrial park, will remove freon for a $15 charge. This scrap metal dealer also accepts at no charge refrigerators bearing a sticker certifying the freon has been removed.

The ozone layer -- a fragile band of gases located between 15 and 40 kilometres above our planet is the Earth's natural sunscreen which filters out most of the sun's potentially harmful shortwave ultraviolet radiation. Synthetic compounds like CFCs have caused a substantial thinning of this protective covering causing serious impacts to human beings, animals and plants which are exposed to higher amounts of radiation.

Individual action in our own community is key to reducing all kinds of air quality problems -- from neighbourhood smoke to global atmospheric degradation. The recovery of useful materials that people throw out and responsible management of residual waste are crucial for our society.

Finding out the right thing to do the first time is as easy as contacting the provincial recycling hotline at 1-800-667-4321, the RDCK recycling helpline at 352-2412 or 1-800-268-7325, or the RDKB waste reduction office at 368-0232 or 1-800-355-7352.

TRASH TIP - Cans made from recycled aluminum require 95% LESS energy than making new ones from ore. The energy saved from recycling aluminum cans in Western Canada is enough to supply energy to 3,800 households for one year.

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