Eventually, all appliances must be replaced, whether you’re upgrading to a newer and nicer lawnmower mid-season, or just getting rid of an old air conditioner at the end of the summer. Unlike everyday trash and recycling, these items require specific steps for safe and legal disposal—you can’t just toss a charcoal grill or string trimmer into a bin and put it out on the curb.
Read on for advice on the proper disposal of appliances that see heavy use during the summer months. We’ll start with general advice, then proceed to device-specific instructions.
Is Your Appliance E-Waste?
Electronic waste, or e-waste, refers to any broken, unusable, or obsolete electronic devices, components, or materials. Because batteries and electrical components contain harmful materials like mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic, they present unique environmental challenges, and their disposal is subject to specific laws and regulations in 25 U.S. states (and Washington, DC).
If your appliance has a removable battery, the battery is considered “hazardous waste” and depending on its type, can be dropped off at a number of retail stores across the country. If the battery cannot be removed, the entire appliance is e-waste and must be processed in a proper facility. Learn more about proper disposal of e-waste.
Sell or Donate Before You Dispose
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure: if your appliance is still in working condition, it’s better for the environment and your community to sell or donate it rather than dispose of it. Better to put money in your pocket or an air conditioner in someone’s home than put serviceable items in a landfill.
Online marketplaces such as OfferUp, Nextdoor, Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace are easy ways to make a sale.
Some Retailers Will Recycle Appliances for You
While you’re at the store, buying your new appliance, ask to see if the staff can help you with your old one. Many major retailers have in-house recycling and/or haul-away programs. Some of these recycling and hauling services are discounted or complimentary with the purchase of a new appliance.
How to Dispose of a Lawnmower (or String Trimmer)
If your mower is no longer usable, properly prepare it for recycling by draining all fluid. First, make sure the gas tank is empty and dry, and follow proper steps for gasoline disposal. Remove the oil plug drain (usually beneath the engine block) and let any oil pour into a sealable plastic or metal container. Never pour oil or gasoline down household drains or storm drains. Batteries, as mentioned above, should be removed and disposed of separately.
Removing non-metal pieces of the mower makes it easier to recycle the rest as scrap metal. Doing so is simpler than it looks. Take off tires by unscrewing the nuts to remove the bolts holding the wheel hubs in place. The tires themselves are often recyclable. Use wire cutters to remove the wires connecting the handle and engine.
Remove plastic parts, like housing pieces or the bin that collects mown grass. They, too, are often recyclable if separated. If anything proves too difficult to disassemble, call a local recycling facility to ask if they can accept it as is.
The same instructions go for string trimmers, hedge trimmers, and similar devices. Always wear goggles and safety gloves when handling any blades.
How to Dispose of a Barbecue Grill
To get rid of a gas grill, start by thoroughly cleaning any food debris and removing the propane tank. Because even trace amounts of flammable gas can be dangerous, propane tanks are not eligible for curbside disposal. Once the tank is removed, make sure the valve is closed and keep the tank away from heat and out of direct sunlight.
Fortunately, most local propane suppliers are ready and able to assist you with proper disposal—especially if you purchase a replacement. Failing that, many municipalities operate helpful programs like NYC’s SAFE Disposal Events.
The hose running from the burners to the tank itself cannot be recycled. Neatly cut it off and dispose of it in your standard garbage stream.
Check any plastic parts (like handles, side shelves, or knobs) for a recycling symbol. If recyclable, they can be removed and placed with the rest of your plastic recycling. If not, remove them and place them in the trash.
Once the plastic has been removed (or if your grill is made entirely of metal), you can bring it straight to a scrap metal recycling facility or (depending on where you live) place it curbside next to your recycling containers on your regular recycling pick-up day. Do your research to ensure that the grill will not be rejected or end up in a landfill.
How to Dispose of a Window Air Conditioner
Federal laws prohibit the landfill disposal of air conditioners or any other devices containing refrigerants. Such devices, which include refrigerators and water coolers, utilize chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or hydrofluorocarbon—commonly referred to as CFCs or Freon. CFCs are extremely harmful to the ozone layer and are regulated by the EPA under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act.
The complex mixture of materials used in the construction of an air conditioner puts safely and properly disassembling them for disposal beyond the reach of most individuals. To address this, the EPA launched the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program, which it defines as “a voluntary partnership program that works with utilities, retailers, manufacturers, state and local government agencies, affiliates, and others to dispose of old refrigerated appliances using the best environmental practices available.”
Facilities in 32 states currently participate in the RAD program. If there is not a participating facility in your state, check with your state office, local utility service, or municipality. Many operate their own programs or even dedicated pick-up programs in order to comply with federal regulations.
Remember: Sell, Donate, or Give Away Appliances That Still Work
We said this already, but we’ll say it again: it’s easier for you, better for the environment, and a boon to someone in need to pass along your still-usable appliances instead of scrapping them. Reduce, reuse, then recycle.