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November 7, 2006 > Robot technology recycles old refrigerators while producing fuel for clean energy

Robot technology recycles old refrigerators while producing fuel for clean energy

Hayward (Nov. 1), PRNewswire_The latest in robotic recycling technology goes to work in Hayward this week and will convert old, discarded energy-wasting refrigerators into reusable materials and even additional electricity.

The robotic recycling device manufactured and patented by SEG Umwelt-Service/Basis of Germany, will operate at the JACO Environmental, Inc. recycling plant in Hayward. The new high-tech approach will feature a "claw" device that will grab refrigerators and safely extract contaminants.

JACO conducts a refrigerator recycling program throughout PG&E's Northern California territory. This includes the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. PG&E customers who call (800) 299-7573 to schedule a pickup of a refrigerator will receive a $35 incentive from the utility.

Besides consuming up to five times the energy required by newer, more efficient refrigerators, old refrigerators contain a toxic brew that includes mercury, oil and ozone-eating chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from foam insulation. As a result, old refrigerators pose a significant threat to the environment when improperly discarded. JACO has established a partnership with PG&E to prevent this by encouraging people to turn over their old refrigerators for recycling. Until 1994, most refrigerators did not meet current energy efficiency standards.

The new technology will also make it easier to recover insulation foam that contains CFCs. In particular, foam insulation containing CFC 11 is combustible and when safely incinerated can be used to generate electricity. On average, each old fridge contains the equivalent of seven kilowatts of electricity that can be added to the power grid.

The new technology will dramatically increase efficiency at the JACO by automating the stage one recycling process. By eliminating the need to manually recycle refrigerators, JACO will boost its productivity from one refrigerator dismantled every 10 minutes to one every minute.

"We all know that recycling something is a great way to preserve our resources. But in the case of old refrigerators, we're not only recycling, we're protecting the environment and converting these old energy hogs to produce a little extra electricity. It's a win-win-win situation," said Michael Dunham, JACO's Director of Energy and Environmental Programs.

The PG&E program is mostly targeted at second refrigerators people keep in their garage or basement. Most serve little or no purpose while eating up valuable energy.

While many recycling facilities only handle the refrigerant Freon and the metals used within the unit, every JACO facility properly recycles and disposes virtually all components of the appliance. To learn more about the JACO program or to get involved, please call (800) 299-7573 or visit

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