Householders may have to pay for disposal of fridges

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People buying new refrigerators will be unable to dispose of their old fridges from this week, as tough new environment laws bring fridge recycling in the UK to a halt and threaten to create a "fridge mountain" of unshiftable waste appliances.

People buying new refrigerators will be unable to dispose of their old fridges from this week, as tough new environment laws bring fridge recycling in the UK to a halt and threaten to create a "fridge mountain" of unshiftable waste appliances.

Britain's biggest refrigerator retailers, Currys and Comet, are stopping their long-established free service of taking away customers' old fridges when they buy new ones as the current recycling methods are about to be outlawed. Householders will probably have to pay local councils to remove fridges.

But the councils then face storing the three million fridges that become redundant every year, and then paying up to £40 to have each one disposed of when recycling technology becomes available. The "fridge mountain" bill for Britain's local authorities may top £100m.

The problem is due to two new regulations, the main one being a European Union law on recycling CFCs, the cooling agent in most fridges which attacks the Earth's ozone layer. The technology is widely available to recycle liquid CFCs. But the second section of the law, which Britain is about to implement, also demands recycling the CFCs in the insulating foam in fridge walls and doors ­ and there is no plant in Britain capable of doing this. Storage until such a plant is set up will be complicated as another new regulation is reclassifying used electrical goods as "hazardous waste", which must be kept in designated secure facilities.

Kay Twitchen, the chairwoman of the Local Government Association's waste and environmental management executive, said: "This is a nightmare for local councils and an expensive one."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the Government was trying to find extra money to help councils. "New businesses to do foam recycling will be set up but it will take some time for them to get up and running," she said.

* On Wednesday, Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will host a household waste summit in Westminster. It will look at ways to meet the tough new EU Landfill Directive, which will force it to cut the amount of waste sent to dumps by two-thirds.

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