Fridge mountain looms in Britain

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A cold, white, environmental menace is on its way to a street corner near you. A growing army of discarded fridges, already stationed in parks, lay-bys and cul-de-sacs around the country, is about to get thousands of new year recruits.

A cold, white, environmental menace is on its way to a street corner near you. A growing army of discarded fridges, already stationed in parks, lay-bys and cul-de-sacs around the country, is about to get thousands of new year recruits.

European regulations which come into force on 1 January mean that local authorities are expecting a huge escalation in the scale of fridge-dumping, already a problem in many towns and cities.

Under the new rules, from Tuesday, old fridges must be sent to specialist recycling plants to remove the ozone-depleting CFCs used in the walls and doors. And with owners unwilling to pay the rising cost of their disposal, councils are braced for an expensive clear-up operation.

Currys, Comet and John Lewis now refuse to take away old fridges when delivering new ones, while local authorities charge between £10 and £50 for the service.

There are currently no facilities capable of decommissioning fridges in the UK, even though UK households get rid of up to three million a year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admits it may be spring before special recycling plants are operational. In the meantime, local authorities will collect old fridges – at a charge – and store them until the facilities are available.

And though the Government has already announced a £6m package of emergency measures to provide temporary storage of waste fridges, it is unlikely to be enough.

"The fault is not with the EU but firmly at the door of the Government," said Mike Childs of Friends of the Earth. "As usual, they have been dragging their feet. They had almost five years to get ready. Why are we now in such a huge mess?"

Defra denies that the new rules will cause a problem. "People who need to get rid of their fridge without a charge can take it to the municipal dump, where it will be disposed of for free," a spokesman said.

CFCs have not been used in any new fridges since 1995. The trend now is towards hydrocarbon refrigerants that do not deplete ozone from the atmosphere.

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