How to recycle a refrigerator: the treatment of dangerous WEEE

15 years: this is the average lifetime of a refrigerator or freezer. Once disused, this product must be recycled properly. For the treatment and disposal of refrigerators, therefore, specific technologies must be used, capable of treating not only their solid components, but also any oils and gases they contain that are harmful to the atmosphere, such as CFCs or HCFCs, or that have a high level of flammability, such as Pentane.

Forrec has distinguished itself, in recent years, for the design and production of complete lines for the treatment of refrigerators, with tailor-made technologies developed and realized for European and non-European markets. Let's see the main steps for the treatment of refrigerators according to Forrec technologies.

120 refrigerators per hour treated with a single line

The lines designed by Forrec engineers for the treatment of refrigerators (classified as WEEE R1 waste) are distinguished by

  • input volumes: the highest in the world treated by a single line;
  • the high efficiency in the recovery of gases such as Pentane and CFC: which allows these systems to fall within the WEEELABEX directives (the strict and extremely detailed European standards for the management of WEEE - Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment).

The WEEELABEX regulations have defined, in particular, limits for emissions, registration of treatments and level of cleanliness of the treated product at the output. All Forrec plants comply with the WEEELABEX regulation, which requires for all incoming refrigerators the cataloguing, weighing and classification according to size (small, medium and large), type and charge (CFC, cyclopentane and pentane).

How is a disused refrigerator treated? Key steps for recycling

The treatment of refrigerators in the Forrec plants follows certain steps, let's see them in detail:

refrigerator treatment plants Forrec

1) Pre-treatment: in this first phase the refrigerator is weighed and prepared to be introduced into the processing line. This is a manual operation that consists in the separation of specific components such as: lamps, glass shelves, electronic boards and wooden parts.

2) Securing or recovery of refrigerant circuits: the refrigerator arrives at the emptying station, where the compressor and the refrigerant circuit are prepared for suction and subsequent separation of the gases and oils contained. Then the compressor and the refrigerant circuit are also removed and their disposal and recycling is managed separately.

3) Automated treatment of the plant: the refrigerator enters a shredding tower and is subjected in sequence to the action of two different types of shredders, to obtain a homogeneous size of the material. In this phase specific machines reduce it into pieces with dimensions between 40 and 60 mm and pulverize the polyurethane. This is followed by a phase of metal separation and subsequent granulation of the product, so that all the different elements present in the small pieces (aluminum, iron, plastic, copper and polyurethane) are separated thanks to operations carried out in sequence with precise instruments: zig-zag separators for the polyurethane, magnetic separators for the iron, densimetric separators for all the other components. The polyurethane usually keeps some traces of gas inside, so it is sent to a pressing system, to become inert and then be safely transported to its final destination.

All these operations are carried out in a controlled atmosphere and with high-tech safety systems, in order to avoid that polluting gases are dispersed in the environment or that there are excessive concentrations of gas in the most dangerous areas or, finally, to intercept gaseous mixtures.

4) Subsequent treatment phases

These phases are completed by a state-of-the-art system for the treatment, with different technologies, of the gas contained in the polyurethane foams used as insulation material in refrigerators. The output materials can be reused and put back on the market as secondary raw material.

All the advantages of Forrec technology for the treatment of refrigerators

Forrec develops and builds complete plants for the treatment of refrigerators that stand out for their quality and performance, in particular:

forrec plants for recycling refrigerators

  • higher capacities: 120 units/hour processed;
  • experience: the know-how that Forrec offers to its customers;
  • lower management costs: thanks to careful design and optimization of maintenance and spare parts;
  • flexibility: each plant is designed and built starting from the customer's needs, evaluating critical issues and risks and obtaining the maximum return on investment;
  • cleanliness of the materials: in line with and superior to the competitors, the level of cleanliness of the output materials is guaranteed for re-introduction into the market as secondary raw material.

Forrec, in recent years, has been able to design and build complete plants for the treatment of refrigerators, collecting the full satisfaction of the customers and their specific needs, different from Country to Country. Some examples are the two different solutions that Forrec has created for France or other successful cases, such as the plant installed in Ukraine, or in Belarus, but also in Italy (where some installations are already operational and the last one in production almost ready for delivery to Turin Area).

To learn more about all the Forrec solutions for the treatment of solid waste: contact our technical team.