What are the Issues?
In the United States, it is estimated that more than 850 million major household appliances are currently in use. This number includes refrigerators, freezers, room air conditioners, dehumidifiers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, ovens, dishwashers, microwave ovens, and humidifiers. Appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, and freezers use refrigerants which, if improperly managed, can be released to the environment where they deplete the ozone layer and/or have the potential to contribute to climate change.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has requirements which address different types of refrigerants including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These substances were targeted for regulation because of concerns about their environmental impact. Once appliances containing these refrigerants are no longer being used, these units, including the refrigerant and appliance itself, must be properly recycled and/or disposed. Improper disposal can pose a hazard to the environment because these appliances can contain, in addition to ozone-depleting refrigerants, other harmful substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and oils.
The recent success of extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs for paint, electronics, and other products has sparked interest in similar approaches for other products such as refrigerant-containing appliances. Recycling and appropriate disposal of used appliances can reduce threats to the environment and protect human health. EPR programs for refrigerant-containing appliances are also intended to create economic and operational efficiencies in the collection and management of products. While there are electronic waste EPR laws in other countries which include appliances with refrigerants, there is currently only one EPR law in the U.S. addressing refrigerant-containing appliances, a local ordinance in New York City that went into effect in July 2014.
What is PSI Doing to Help?
PSI is currently providing implementation support to New York City for its local EPR law covering refrigerant-containing appliances. This work involves evaluating options for implementation including: 1) examining appliance EPR programs in other jurisdictions; and 2) identifying and comparing costs of options for program operations. In addition, PSI has analyzed information provided by recyclers and legal documents pertaining to the law.
To view existing extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws in the U.S., visit our Map of State EPR Laws page. To view pending and active EPR legislation in the U.S.—privileged content available exclusively to PSI Members and Partners—login here.
For more information, please contact Suna Bayrakal at (617) 671-0616.