Two Connecticut Power Companies Team up for Appliance Recycling Program

There may be a crisp $50 bill hiding not so quietly in your basement.

Oct. 15—WATERBURY, Conn. — There may be a crisp $50 bill hiding not so quietly in your basement.

Two state utility companies, Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating Co., have teamed to create an appliance recycling program that will pay customers $50 for every old, inefficient refrigerator or freezer they recycle, and $25 for every single-room air conditioning unit or dehumidifier.

The utilities have signed a contract with Minneapolis-based Appliance Recycling Centers of America Inc., or ARCA, to provide the service to CL&P and UI customers across the state. CL&P has about 1.1 million residential customers in Connecticut, while UI has about 320,000.

ARCA has set up a recycling center in a 16,000-square-foot factory building at 567 South Leonard St. The 27-year-old public company, which employs about 40 people at its Waterbury facility, operates similar recycling centers in Minnesota, California, Ohio, Georgia and Texas, said Edward R. Cameron, its president and founder.

ARCA arranges to pick up the old appliance from CL&P and UI customers who call the program's toll-free number, 1-800-664-2722.

Once the appliance reaches the South Leonard Street facility, it is stripped of all environmentally hazardous materials, like capacitors — which often contain carcinogenic PCBs — mercury switches and refrigerants, said Bruce J. Wall, an ARCA vice president. The remaining materials — mostly steel, along with smaller amounts of other metals, and rubber and plastic — are recycled.

After the process is completed, customers are mailed a check that usually arrives within six weeks of the pick-up date. The checks are funded by the Connecticut Energy Conservation and Load Management Fund. The fund was created by the state legislature to promote efficient energy use, save residents and businesses money on their electric bills and reduce demand for electricity. It is supported by a small appropriation from each utility customer's monthly payment.

ARCA, which ran recycling programs for both utilities in the early '90s, launched the current program in mid-April, about when the utilities began inserting small pamphlets about the program in customers' bills. The strong initial response forced the company to move from its original headquarters, a much smaller facility on Stephens Street, to the South Leonard Street location. It also doubled its work force from 20 to 40 about a month ago, Cameron said.

Through the end of September, the program had retired 4,317 refrigerators, 1,772 freezers and 318 air conditioners and dehumidifiers, producing 656 tons of scrap metal, 2,394 pounds of refrigerant, 869 pounds of capacitors and 616 gallons of compressor oil.

Participants must be a customer of one of the two utility companies in order to be eligible for the program, said Craig A. Clark, program administrator for CL&P. Appliances must be at least 10 years old and in working condition, he said. There is a limit of two appliances per household per year.

ARCA will not send a truck to a customer's home to pick up a lone air conditioner or dehumidifier, however. Those appliances will be collected only from customers who are also turning in old refrigerators or freezers.

Cameron and Wall said ARCA will explore establishing similar programs with the remaining utility companies in Connecticut and their counterparts in neighboring states. Cameron said the Waterbury facility could "comfortably" handle appliances collected from a 150-mile radius, which would include utility customers in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and southern Vermont and New Hampshire.

"The good thing for Waterbury is that, as we expand the program and the capacity at this facility, we're going to have to create more jobs and hire more people," he said.

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