"Robots Extract Coolant From Old Refrigerators"

"RECYCLING refrigerators — especially those made more than 15 years ago — is a tricky job. The coolant in old appliances (now banned from newer versions) can cause serious trouble, warming the atmosphere and depleting the ozone layer."

"Regulations forbid the release of liquid refrigerants during disposal. But what if the refrigerant was not in the cooling system, but stored up in the old foam used for insulation? The insulation in older machines is full of a gassy refrigerant that can waft away during dismantling and continue to diffuse later when the foam is shredded and sitting in a landfill.

Now a few American companies have embarked on voluntary recycling programs that go beyond what many local governments do when a resident leaves an old refrigerator on the curb for pickup. The companies use ingenious robotic systems to squeeze out almost all of the coolant in refrigerators — including the hard-to-reach coolant in the foam — before they head for the landfill."

Anne Eisenberg reports for the New York Times September 24, 2011.

Source: NY Times, 09/26/2011