Disposing of a Fridge: A Complete Guide

Old fridges freezers refrigerant at refuse dump skip recycle plant help environment

There is a saying, “are you even an American if you don’t have an old white refrigerator in your garage?” Many people choose to keep their old fridge when they get a new one and use it as extra food storage in the garage. But, what happens when the fridge’s life ends and it needs to be disposed of?

Fridges can be disposed of in multiple ways, whether it is dumping, recycling, donating, or upcycling. There are many companies that do free fridge pick up and properly dispose of or recycle it. There are also many nonprofits that take fridges and endless DIYs on Pinterest for upcycling fridges.

Continue reading to learn which form of disposal is your best option for your fridge.

When Does the Time Come for Disposing of a Fridge?

Fridges cannot last forever. They have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, but it’s good to start looking at new fridges before that in case something goes wrong. Some people do make their fridges last that long with extra care and wait until the last second to get a new one. Others get a new one after a few years in order to fit the needs of their kitchen and family. Whatever the case is, you will need to find a way to properly dispose of your old fridge to make room for a new one.

Before you get rid of the fridge, make sure to fully clean out any food and properly wipe it down. It would also be smart to remove the door, as some places don’t accept it with the door simply taped shut.

If you aren’t sure if your fridge needs to go or not, there are a few common signs it is nearing the end of its life.

Expiration dates on food are usually very accurate, so if the food in your fridge is going bad before it expires, this could be a sign that your fridge isn’t able to keep food cold anymore. This comes from an issue with the motor or gasket. On the opposite end, your fridge could be a goner if it’s keeping your food too cold.

Fridges have seals for a reason, to keep the cold air in and the warm air out. If the seal on the door isn’t working, the cold air will leak out, creating condensation on the outside of the door. The good news is that these seals can be easily replaced. However, if the fridge interior or exterior is cracking, it may be past repairs.

Male Worker Repairing Refrigerator With Screwdriver In House

Another sign is if your fridge is making too little or too much noise. This is an issue with the motor. As you can see, all fridge problems come from a certain part. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the fridge is old or just needs a new part. If the fridge is over 10 years old, its life is likely over.

If your fridge is relatively new, the fridge can likely be fixed under the warranty, so you won’t have to pay for the repairs. However, if fixing the fridge is going to cost almost as much as a new fridge, it’s a better financial decision to just buy the new fridge. You will thank yourself later. (Source)

In order to avoid the stress of not having a place to store cold food, don’t wait until the last possible second to order a new fridge. It’s smart to get a new one before your current fridge gets old.

Benefits of Properly Disposing of Your Fridge

According to the United States Environment Protection Agency, there are many benefits to properly disposing of a fridge, especially for the environment. Many people do choose to store their old fridges in the garage, but they don’t use it to their advantage. This adds extra and unneeded costs to their utility bill.

The EPA says it also emits extra greenhouse gases and proper disposal will stop the release of ozone-damaging substances. By properly disposing you are also stopping the release of used oil, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls. All of these substances are damaging to humans, the environment, and your utility bill.

Dumping Your Fridge

When it comes to actually disposing of your fridge in the dump, let the professionals handle it. They have the right tools to complete the process safely and efficiently and put it in the correct area. There are several companies, governmental and non-governmental, that would be happy to take your fridge off of your hands.

The waste management division in your area or the department of public works should have heavy trash pickup or programs to recycle the fridge. This is separate from your normal, every-week trash pickup. Do not put your fridge out on the street and expect the garbageman to pick it up.

You need to first contact the organization and schedule a time for them to come pick it up. A lot of times these companies will do it for free since they are glad that you aren’t disposing of your fridge illegally. Some even offer compensation. It all depends on the company, so when you call to schedule a pickup time, ask if there is a fee involved. If the pickup does cost a fee, it shouldn’t be too much. A lot of government programs get special funding to do this.

Aged repairman in uniform fixing refrigerator in the kitchen, while his colleague helping him, bringing screwdriver. Repair service concept. Selective focus. Side view. Horizontal shot

Once you have your appointment scheduled, it is time to move your fridge to the curb. Clean out all food and wipe down every surface before doing so. Whether you do this in the house, the garage, or the driveway, remove the door! This is vital, especially if you live in an area with lots of little kids. Children are curious and may think it’s fun to climb inside the fridge until the door closes on them and they can’t get out. For your safety and others, remove the door before pickup. You can put the door next to the rest of the fridge so it gets picked up as well.

If you have already bought a fridge, oftentimes the company will pick up your old fridge after they install your new fridge, for a small fee. This makes the process a lot smoother since they are already at your house with the tools to transport a fridge properly. (Source)


The most common appliance recycling program is Responsible Appliance Disposal, also known as RAD. RAD will pick up your fridge, and sometimes even give you compensation for your fridge. They then take the fridge to a recycling facility where someone properly recycles the fridge in the best way possible.

Once it gets to the recycling facility, they “de-manufacture” it, a term used in the appliance world. They take off the doors and the insides until it is just the bare bones. This is the most effective and efficient way to recycle.

RAD programs are in most states, but if there is not a RAD program in your area, there are other programs in the area run by utility or energy organizations that also offer you compensation or utility bill credits. They are willing to work with you because you are helping save energy by getting rid of this fridge that you no longer use.

The fee varies depending on the organization and if they are run by the government or not. It is always smart to call first and learn all the details of how it will work on your end.

Besides professional recycling programs, scrap metal recyclers are often in most areas and can recycle or reuse several parts of your fridge, providing you with compensation. (Source)

Donate Your Fridge

If you are getting rid of your fridge prematurely and it still has some life left in it, donate it! There are so many people and places that would gladly take a free usable fridge. It’s hard to believe but there are people in this modern world who have to go without a working fridge, finding other ways to keep their food cold.

Some places that take fridges are Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, certain thrift stores, or churches will take them and find families in their community who need one. However, every location is different. Makes sure to call the specific store you would be taking it to and double-check with them. It would be very frustrating to haul it all the way there for nothing. On the bright side, some do offer pickup of your fridge. (Source)

Another option besides donating it is to list the fridge somewhere like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. This way you can still get some money out of it to use for your new fridge because those bad boys are not cheap. Appliances are essential to a household and yet somehow become the most expensive part, always finding some way to break down too soon.

Upcycle Your Fridge

Of course, the most common thing to do with your old refrigerator is to stick it in your garage, as long as it is still working and has a long life ahead of them. Having an extra refrigerator in the garage can be very helpful. After doing a large grocery haul for the week, not all of the food fits in the fridge comfortably, especially when you have a big family. This is when the extra fridge comes in handy. A lot of families like to stock up on frozen dinners, food storage, ice cream for the summer, and all of their favorite snacks. If they have an extra fridge, they can easily do this.

If you are having a big dinner at your house or are hosting your family during a holiday, the extra fridge will be greatly appreciated. You can store the food that you prep days before, and store the leftovers for days after. At my house, the extra fridge in the garage becomes the ‘pie fridge’ around Thanksgiving, and it is my dad’s favorite fridge. This is something to think about before you give the fridge away. However, if you won’t be using it, it would be better for the environment and your utility bill to donate it.

It turns out that many fridge owners get creative once the fridge dies. Who knew a fridge could have so many purposes once it stops its ability to store cold food items? With the right tools and supplies, you could turn your fridge into another common household item.

Homeowners have turned fridges into couches, chairs, tables, cabinets, kitchen storage, backyard coolers, bookshelves, wall decorations, meat smokers, houses for their dogs, wine cellars, planters, greenhouses, and even igloos. Yes, you are reading that right. Someone took fridge doors and made an igloo.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. All you have to do is grab some supplies, your old fridge, and think of a use for it in your house or backyard. I’m sure you can find even more ideas on Pinterest. (Source)

Upcycling is a great way to extend a fridge’s life and help the environment instead of contributing to the landfills. If you have an older fridge, this can be a great way to add a vintage aesthetic to your home, or you can redecorate the fridge to whatever style of your choosing. Repurposing items that you already have is a great way to change the style of your home, without breaking the bank.

Illegal Dumping

Dump of old technology in nature. Scrap metal. High quality photo

Sadly, even with all of the resources mentioned, people still choose to dispose of their fridges in illegal ways. Fridges can emit harmful substances into the ozone, so it is illegal to just randomly dump off your fridge in the middle of nowhere. If children running around find the fridge, it can be very dangerous. The gases can ruin their health. If one of the children gets inside the fridge and the door closes, there is no way out from the inside.

California has made it a crime to abandon an appliance that still has its door on it, for this very reason. Oftentimes we don’t think about the negative effects fridges can have on our environment because we see fridges as something helpful, not harmful. (Source)

There are several ways to legally dispose of your old fridge, whether you are dumping, recycling, donating, or upcycling. Even if you don’t have a use for it anymore, someone else will. It’s important to properly dispose of your fridge in order to benefit the environment and those around you.

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