Magazine article Journal of Property Management

The Recycling Grind

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

The Recycling Grind

Article excerpt

Replacing appliances can be easy enough-check prices and quality, and you're ready to purchase. But getting rid of the old one isn't as easy as carting it off to the local dump.

According to most property managers, refrigerators are mostly likely the first to go when trying to remain competitive in the marketplace. But you have to remember that certain EPA guidelines need to be followed or the extra dollars earned from that new frost-free refrigerator could be lost on hefty fines for discarding the old one improperly.

In an effort to control the release of refrigerant gases, under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, it has been illegal since November 15, 1995, to knowingly vent substitutes for chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants during the maintenance, service, repair, and disposal of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

The requirements currently in place for CFC and HCFC refrigerants, now apply to their substitutes HFC and PFC as well, including required practices, certification programs for recovery/recycling equipment, reclaimers, and technicians, a prohibition on the sale of refrigerant to anyone but certified technicians, leak repair, and safe disposal requirements.

Gone are the days when, for convenience sake, technicians could simply vent refrigerants from systems. Today, under EPA law, highly trained technicians must use stateof-the-art equipment to capture refrigerant gases for reclaiming and future use to prevent its release into the atmosphere. The EPA estimates that almost 8 million refrigerators and freezers are thrown away in the U.S. every year and without refrigerant recovery about 4 million pounds of ozone-depleting chemicals escape from appliances at disposal.

Safe Disposal

The environmental and financial penalties for violating this prohibition are high-the EPA is authorized to assess fines of up to $25,000 per day per violation of the Act. Equipment that is typically dismantled on-site before disposal has to have the refrigerant recovered in accordance with EPA's requirements for servicing. However, equipment that typically enters the waste stream with the charge intact, such as household refrigerators, is subject to special safe disposal requirements.

Under these requirements, the final handler of the appliance is responsible for ensuring that the refrigerant gases have been recovered. The process used to recover the refrigerant gases varies depending on the type of appliance. Usually, a special metal recovery tank with a vacuum hose is used to remove the gases from the appliance. When full, the tank is taken to a centralized collection point and eventually transported to reclaimers who process the used refrigerant to near-pure quality for a minimum of 99.5 percent purity prior to being available for resale.

Penalty Beware

Many waste haulers are hesitant to accept appliances with refrigerants. Those who do are likely to charge a fee for removing the refrigerant (usually $15 to $60). Businesses that do not have reclaiming equipment are likely to accept these appliances only with certification that the gases have been properly removed. Individuals who try to circumvent the law by venting the gases without proper equipment and training are themselves liable for the $25,000 fine. Beyond venting of the gas, the law requires that the compressor and system be drained of the CFC-bearing oils as well.

Despite the threat of a substantial fine, Harold See, president and founder of CFC Reclamation and Recycling Service Inc., says that in reality probably 98 percent of those who should be following EPA rules don't and are disposing of appliances illegally. The problem in apartment complexes, he says, is that most of the time, the maintenance person hired to do the job is not qualified, or is not given the proper equipment.

"It's a simple lack of knowledge," See says. "Yet it is so easy for people to comply that they should just be up-front. …

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