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GE Unveils Fridge-Recycling Behemoth

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the om-nom-nom dept.

Science 52

An anonymous reader writes "It wouldn't be out of place at a monster truck rally. Forty feet tall and capable of eating up and breaking down 150,000 used refrigerators annually, the new UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT) system at the Appliance Recycling Centers of America's (ARCA's) facility in Philadelphia is an engineering marvel. At an event there this morning, GE and ARCA announced that the URT system is ready to go to work on its first old fridge."

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Shredder Fun (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394470)

Monster shredders are really nothing new. But it's still fun to watch things get tossed into them.

YouTube has quite a few video clips of big shredders shredding big things.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394572)

It's not about the shredding, but sorting the materials....
and hopefully refrigerant recovery, but that was not addressed.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394636)

Unless gas separation processes are much more efficient than I am aware of, I assume that it is cheaper to have a grunt with what amounts to a heavy-duty syringe on a hose breach the coolant loop and pull the refrigerant before shredding, rather than try to separate it out of the diffuse mixture of refrigerant, air, misc. dust particles, and whatnot floating around the shredder...

Or, if the refrigerant isn't worth it, the "eh, they phased out CFCs a while back, right?" approach may be taken...

Re:Shredder Fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37394800)

They are the problem you are describing has been trivial for more than 20 years now.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

pookemon (909195) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395308)

Given the statement (From TFA) of "The URT system can transform refrigerator insulating foam into pellets for use as fuel or other products.". I'm guessing your last line is what they'll take. "Hey we recover it as pellets that you can burn - it's recycling!". So why not just shred the fridge, burn the product to product electricity to power the shredder and then refine the left over metals. Job done... Environment buggered.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395838)

Job done... Environment buggered.

So? This is the USA...the only thing that matters is that it's huge, overpowered and violent!

Re:Shredder Fun (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37396820)

So? This is the USA...the only thing that matters is that it's huge, overpowered and violent!

I wish you were joking. Sigh ...

btw: notice how tv continues to seek the lowest ground? I used to like Discovery, but now every show is a variation of "A Bunch of Guys and a Girl That Like To Blow Shit Up All The Time", and "Giant Monster Super Penis-Like Tunnel Boring Machine", and "Scary Hypothetical Future Mega Storm Fairy Tale In Horribly Serious Voice to Make it Sound Real and With Hideous Background Din To Distract From Lack of Content". It all sounds like the mind of a male adolescent.

Remember when "USA" didn't just mean "Fat Blowhard Air-Horn". "huge, overpowered and violent" + "and ignorant" sounds like how others countires would decribe ours. Dying Empire indeed.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

imjustmatthew (1164609) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394652)

Shredding the materials and degassing/compressing the foam. It doesn't sound like they're doing anything about refrigerant recovery, but they talk about the foam processing reducing greenhouse emissions.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394824)

Shredding the materials and degassing/compressing the foam. It doesn't sound like they're doing anything about refrigerant recovery, but they talk about the foam processing reducing greenhouse emissions.

Most likely refridgerant recovery is done ahead of the step where they recycle the rest of the first. It's trivial to do so it's probably one of the first things done as the gas can be under high pressure.

Re:Shredder Fun (3, Informative)

rta (559125) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394910)

You'll also note that their demo fridge (2nd pic in TFA) has had its compressor and coils removed as well before being sent in.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

imjustmatthew (1164609) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395128)

Good catch, I didn't notice that.

That seems weird though, since they talk about recovering copper and copper is mostly going to be in the compressor and coils. I guess they mean in whatever earlier step removes them.

Re:Shredder Fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37405022)

you want the freon and other toxic gases removed first. Can't do that if you leave the pipes in.

No, still true... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394774)

In virtually *ALL* recycling operations that involve an industrial shredder, there is also automated material sorting. For example electronic recycling that starts off with a big shredder, and then routes the smaller and smaller pieces past various devices that remove different types of metals and plastics...

So really, this in fact is NOTHING NEW.

But really, good show to GE in engineering a modern shredder/sorter. It would have been nice if it also recovered the refrigeration gas. Maybe it does and I missed it...

Re:No, still true... (2)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 3 years ago | (#37397490)

In virtually *ALL* recycling operations that involve an industrial shredder, there is also automated material sorting. For example electronic recycling that starts off with a big shredder, and then routes the smaller and smaller pieces past various devices that remove different types of metals and plastics...

I saw a mini-documentary about a car shredder/sorter on Discovery (I believe). They showed how the car was shredded, and then what techniques were used to sort all the parts. They sorted the shredded junk by specific weight (fans), magnetic properties, whether the piece would adhere to different types surfaces, how well it bounced, and numerous other ingenious methods. The end results had a remarkable fidelity as to what kinds of material could be sorted with high accuracy.

It was all very impressive. I can't relocate this video, but if anyone remembers it and can provide a link it would be great. The ones I have found are very skimpy on details, the video I remember was about 10-15 minutes long.

Re:No, still true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37413488)

It does, you missed it. Also, it captures the gasses from the insulating foam.

Refrigerant recovery (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#37396544)

If you follow the link to the EPA's "Responsible Appliance Disposal program", (at the end of the second paragraph), it says...

Using best practices, RAD partners ensure that:
- Refrigerant is recovered and reclaimed or destroyed
- Foam is recovered and destroyed, or the blowing agent is recovered and reclaimed
- Metals, plastic, and glass are recycled
- PCBs, mercury, and used oil are recovered and properly disposed

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 3 years ago | (#37398856)

Hard to believe its not more efficient to hire unskilled labor to cut the fridge apart and simply sort the foam, plastic, and steel pieces by hand.

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395870)

YouTube has quite a few video clips of big shredders shredding big things.

Yep. Forget fridges, how about engine blocks [youtube.com] ?

Re:Shredder Fun (1)

VanessaE (970834) | more than 3 years ago | (#37405368)

Oh, that's just evil.

We have to be vijilant (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394524)

We must be vijilant, to make sure thise powerful Maerican technology doesn/t get into hte hands of the Italian menace!!!!

But, what can shred the shredder? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37394576)

We'll need something ten times bigger to eat this monster!
And more lab coats, stat!

Not GE... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37394578)

I don't get this. This isn't GE. This is UNTHA from Austria.

Honestly, other than producing fridges that need to be recycled, I'm not sure what role if any GE plays in this.

These guys (http://www.untha.com/en) made a super shreadder that can recover spray foam as a pellet, and exceeds EPA standards for recover of gasses and other stuff, and GE says "Hey, our shit can be recycled now!".

Re:Not GE... (1)

malakai (136531) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394588)

Here's a link [arcainc.com] to a company selling this shredder. Nothing to do with GE.

Re:Not GE... (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394634)

I'm not sure what role if any GE plays in this.

"You want to do business in our town, you gotta give us a piece of the action. See? It would be a real shame if something bad happened to your machine. Heh, heh, heh."

Re:Not GE... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394730)

GE is buying the units for use in their recycling business. Apparently, they've been recycling appliances in a few states. That's the limit to their involvement, but they are the ones who announced the unit.

Re:Not GE... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#37397636)

Well unless UNTHA is giving these units away, GE is paying for them. GE sponsors the use of these machines at the recycling machine and therefore announces their use.

What's not to get?

Re:Not GE... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37397750)

I can't name the company (they wouldn't be happy probably), but GE doesn't make the fridge themselves... all they do is license their name to be stuck on the door with double-sided tape and a couple stickers.

Disasters (4, Interesting)

jkmartin (816458) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394630)

This needs to be reduced to a size where it can be fit on a couple semis and moved around to disaster (flood, tornado, hurricane) sites where there is a large spike in the number of appliances needing disposed of. Of course then the problem becomes what you do with the fridges contents that have sometimes been stewing for weeks. I did some work in Joplin where 1 family had 3 refrigerators full of food. Moving a fridge is hard enough. Moving it when it's full of food is twice as hard. Moving a full refrigerator through a destroyed house while trying to avoid seeping goo of unknown composition is where it gets interesting.

Re:Disasters (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394694)

Moving a full refrigerator through a destroyed house while trying to avoid seeping goo of unknown composition is where it gets interesting.

By "interesting" I assume you meant "frightening"

Re:Disasters (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#37396978)

As long as you didn't leave a Ganymede Rock Lobster in there for a year or so, you're probably fine.

Re:Disasters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37396504)

That's just stupid. Dump trucks are already Truck sized. Just take a few trucks tell the crews to only pickup refrigerators and where to unload them. End of story. good night kids.

Re:Disasters (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#37399062)

What you're looking for is a mobile plasma gasification platform. Garbage in, energy and landfill filler out. The benefit is you could generate power onsite and use the resulting carbon as roadway filler for rebuilding local roads.

Apparently even fridges need nightmares (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394678)

Seems rather dramatic. Almost as they think fridges feel fear.

Re:Apparently even fridges need nightmares (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394734)

From the sound of it, this is apparently similar to the equipment used to recycle electronics these days. Those are about the size of a house and grind and separate things in a sealed off environment from which little to no heavy metals escape.

That's assuming that it's done properly rather than by people in a 3rd world nation on the cheap.

Still, this is definitely a worthwhile endeavor, we're not going to give up our refrigerators any time soon, so at least this way they can be more efficiently recycled.

Screenshots (1)

Garth Smith (1720052) | more than 3 years ago | (#37394766)

totally looks like Aperture Science.

Re:Screenshots (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395030)

Falling into the fridge recycler will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death.

Baldwinic Paracusia (1)

Grissnap (2028624) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395076)

http://xkcd.com/462/ [xkcd.com] Reading the article, I couldn't help but hearing it in Alec Baldwin's voice.

Whoppie shit (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395096)

You can tear the metal off of a fridge with your bare hands (once you get a starting point), shredding crap is not the problem with fridges, its all the gas inside of them.

So fucking what, you made a shredder, let me just shit my self

It's actually a refrigerator marketing gimmick (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395454)

It's really a marketing program for refrigerators. [arcainc.com] ARCA runs "cash for clunkers" programs, subsidized by electric companies and government agencies. They don't even accept broken appliances, only working ones being replaced with new ones.

The machinery is built by UNTHA in Germany. There's more than shredding involved. The first step is removing the refrigerant, which is a semi-manual process. Then the shredding takes place in a nitrogen atmosphere. The usual separation techniques are employed; magnets pull out the ferrous materials, and then AC magnets pull out non-ferrous metals. Then there are cyclones and screens to separate the flufff by density. The insulation fluff is heated to drive CFCs out of the material, and those are recovered. The remaining fluff is pelletized.

Refrigerators are relatively uniform from a materials standpoint, so this is a straightforward separation process. General trash recycling is much tougher.

Destroying repairable property is mismanagement. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37395634)

Who values their labor more than repairing something to return it's fitness and function? Here in America where I am from, you don't let scrappers take any broken appliances because they just disassemble them down to bare metal for the inefficiency of recycling. That kind of recycling is the stock that bankers gauge to trade their depreciating US dollars into metals that increase value when they are exported to 2nd-world manufacturing countries like China and Taiwan where their cramped labor operations refine the materials into a valuable appliance or device.

What I've known many to do is actualy collect all the broken appliances to repair them under-the-counter for resale to general contracters of their peers or trade on Craigslist. This is what Americans do with broken appliances they keep away from the scrappers. Most scrappers are illegal aliens. The legal-alien scrappers that are in America, they all collect the broken appliances to ship in convoys down through Mexico where they are repaired and resold in a lucrative market full of Service personell that keep their towns active in just this.

I have to wonder: what is America doing in allowing ANYONE to scrap or destroy an appliance or device that has a rudementary part that can be repaired to bring it back into full value. Yet there it is. Everyone trains to be an engineer, but you can't make anything durable or servicable like Tecnicians did prior to the World Wars. Why America?

Re:Destroying repairable property is mismanagement (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 3 years ago | (#37397228)

The refrigerators being shredded are far less energy efficient than modern refrigerators. The idea is that the 'wasted' effort and energy in shredding a repairable fridge is less than the electricity wasted by letting that refrigerator continue to operate instead of being replaced by a modern, more energy efficient model. In fact, the total amount of electricity used by all refrigerators in tUSA has fallen by something like 75% since the 1970s, due to manufacturers complying with ever increasing government energy efficiency requirements.

Was there demand for this? (1)

NetNed (955141) | more than 3 years ago | (#37395676)

Is there such a amount of refrigerators just lying around that there is a need for this machine?

I recently replaced my fridge. My trash pick-up will take fridges as long as you call them 36 hour in advance. I called, then put the fridge with door off at the curb the night before. It was there all of 15 minutes before the scrap guys the comb my area got it and took it away. There is money to be made off them in the form of recycled metals and reclaiming the refrigerant left in them. Most times when you have a working fridge, it's no problem to get rid of it to someone else who needed it. The replacement programs give about 10 to 50 buck for a running fridge. More times then not a fridge is worth more to sell to someone or even get the scrap from them then it is to turn in for the cash back. In the end those companies could stand to make 5 or 6 times that amount off of turned in fridges.

Re:Was there demand for this? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37396344)

Actually, there is a societal-level case that recycling an old fridge is worth the value of scrap plus the differential cost of the power required to run it. With a 20 year old unit, that's about $100/yr. The savings is both in energy usage (1000 kWh/yr) as well as financial planning angle. Someone who buys an old fridge (we'll say 10 years old) for $100 and runs it for another ten years will have spent at least $650 on the fridge and "extra" energy over a 10 year life, presuming nothing goes wrong with it. A new fridge (on sale) will cost between $500 an $600. I've excluded cost of money here, as the increase in electricity is expected to outstrip inflation over the near term, but without a crystal ball you can massage the numbers in either direction. The point is, while it may be expedient to grab a fridge from the curb, it probably doesn't make financial sense,

Is there a market for this? Well, there are over to 100,000,000 households in the US, and a fridge only lasts for 20 years or so. 100M/20 years=5 million refrigerators per year that might need disposal. You'd need more than 30 of these around the US to handle that load.

Re:Was there demand for this? (1)

NetNed (955141) | more than 3 years ago | (#37400636)

I can see the point you are trying to make. There are flaws though. Your price to operate is a little off considering that fridges now a days have more issues and break down much more frequently then they ever used to. My mothers fridge had issues after 3 years and required a new control board at a cost of $300 to replace. That right there would wipe out any potential saving in the form of less energy used. The repair man even told her that most companies make them to fail so they can make money on parts replacement. Then you have a fridge that I have in my garage that is a 1972 model that is still kicking or a 1970 model freezer that I gave to a buddy that is still kicking strong. The fridge I just replaced was one from 1998 and the repair man said it was too expensive to fix compared to what I could get a new one for. That doesn't sound like the fridge companies are out to become green or use less energy, they are out to make money period.

Like I said the money that they will give you as a "trade in" for a running fridge is way less then what could be obtained from either reselling it or scraping it for metal and gas reclamation. They are doing this just to make money, otherwise they would be giving a reasonable amount since they require the fridge to be working. That is why the gas reclamation is the key. That must be where the real value is to them since I guarantee they reuse it.

Re:Was there demand for this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37397656)

I can't say what company I work for that makes GE's freezers (the company wouldn't be happy)... but we scrap a lot (probably a hundred a night just off my line, and I know they get crushed, and the ones from my plant get shipped to Canada where the foam gets incinerated because it's too toxic to incinerate here in the US (isocyanate and polyolyster oil, with an unknown blowing agent... probably nitrogen).

GE moved locamotives to China (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37396772)

Basically, GE wants to create the fridge in CHina, sell it to the west, then have us pay GE to destroy our fridge, in which the raw material will be sent back to CHina to be used in new locamotives. Brilliant. GE is hard at work at destroying the west.

Re:GE moved locamotives to China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37397878)

The place I work at (they wouldn't be happy if I mentioned names) already tried this... the freezers that China sent back were junk... mostly rust and dents; from being inside cargo containers on cargo ships and heavy seas.

Might I suggest (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#37397152)

The Defridgenator?

I saw this in a movie once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37397904)

I am pretty sure it is the same machine as "Mr. Bonestripper". Now all we need is a guy that looks like Dan Aykroyd to run it.

"I tell you what there. I'll give ya all yer coke and yer grinders and spoons and pot and guns and knives and all that back to ya when ya come out the other end!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enUo-1TjdEs

Where's Chuck Heston? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37402932)

Soylent Green is made from REFRIGERATORS!!!

I do this all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37403728)

With a good crow bar, a hammer, wire snips, a truck and less common sense than a head of lettuce. Scrap metal wont make you rich, but it pays for gas.

Or, they could just make them like they used to... (1)

randyleepublic (1286320) | more than 3 years ago | (#37407062)

In my mother's garage is a GE refrigerator that has been running continuously for over 50 years, and has never been serviced!
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