Montana Earth Science Picture of the Week

Where refrigerators go to die

This is the disposal site for refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners for residents of the Helena area. The site is located next to Carroll College in Helena. Disposal of these appliances is given special attention because they contain Freon, a gas that has been proven to destroy Earth's protective ozone layer. Freon is the most famous of the chloroflourocarbons (CFCs), which contribute the chlorine atoms blamed for destroying ozone molecules. The ozone layer protects us from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and other problems.

A fee for disposal . . .
To get rid of refrigerators, individuals or businesses must bring these appliances to designated disposal sites such as landfills or "transfer stations". A fee is charged to cover the cost of removing the Freon ($7 in Helena 2012). This practice accomplishes two things. It keeps Freon out of the atmosphere, and also provides Freon to be reused by businesses that repair refrigerators manufactured before 1996. In 1996, it became illegal to manufacture appliances that use ozone-destroying chemicals.

Its the law . . .
Several years ago, an unannounced EPA inspection at one of Montana's larger county landfills revealed six refrigerators that had not been properly disposed of. The county did not have the required paperwork on file, nor had they cut or crimped refrigerant system lines as required by law. The EPA sought $36,000 in fines from that county.

Short (2:21) YouTube Video about the Hole in the Ozone Layer

History of the Ozone Situation

Terms: ozone layer, cataract


*More about refrigerator disposal
*The Ozone Hole Tour
Whipped topping ozone demonstration
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By Rod Benson
Earth Science Teacher at Helena High School

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