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Refrigerator Recycling Heats Up in Philadelphia

When does achieving less equal success? When you’re measuring waste. That’s exactly what they’re doing at an Appliance Recycling Centers of America facility in Philadelphia. Thanks to a new 40-foot-tall “refrigerator shredder” (my description) funded by Susquehanna Bank, ARCA is reducing the waste from discarded refrigerators by 85%. And it’s created 50 new jobs in the process.

GE Appliances & Lighting recently held a press conference at ARCA’s Advanced Processing facility in Philadelphia to showcase the URT system, a high-tech unit that gobbles up old refrigerators and breaks them down into component parts – steel, copper and aluminum, plastic and polyurethane foam pellets – that can be recycled in other products. For example, the steel is sent to a GE plant that manufactures locomotives.

Susquehanna Bank provided $4.75 million in financing to enable ARCA to buy the URT system, through U.S. Small Business Administration lending. It is the first and only URT system in North America.

“This is an excellent example of government working with large business and small business to create jobs,” said John Shoraka, the SBA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. “We don’t make the loans, but we guarantee the loans. We work with our partners like Susquehanna Bank.”

The box on the left displays the 55 lbs. of waste sent to a landfill after a refrigerator is recycled using traditional methods; the smaller box on the right contains the 8 lbs. of waste sent to a landfill after a refrigerator is processed by the URT.

While steel, copper, aluminum and plastic can be recovered from cast-off refrigerators in traditional recycling, the URT adds a new dimension. The fully automated process enables ARCA to recycle the polyurethane foam used to insulate refrigerators, turning it into pellets that can be used for fuel. The end result? Instead of sending 55 lbs. of waste to a landfill for each refrigerator, ARCA reduces that waste to a mere 8 lbs. In addition, the system captures the greenhouse gases that would normally escape into the atmosphere during the recycling process.

The URT is capable of processing one refrigerator in about a minute, and the Philadelphia plant can recycle approximately 150,000 per year. It receives old refrigerators from a dozen states in the Mid-Atlantic region and New England.

This innovative recycling program is the result of collaboration among many businesses and agencies, including ARCA; GE; The Home Depot, which participates in the recycling program; Susquehanna Bank; the SBA; and the Environmental Protection Agency, with its Responsible Appliance Disposal Program.

“It really takes a team effort, and I think we’ve put together just a fantastic team,” Jack Cameron, President and CEO of ARCA, said at the press conference. He acknowledged the financing provided by Susquehanna’s SBA lending group, including SBA Business Banker Lisa Viscusi and Executive Vice President Lynn Ozer. Cameron said, “I really want to thank Susquehanna Bank.”

You can take a virtual tour of the URT refrigerator recycling system on Susquehanna Bank’s YouTube channel.


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