Northeast Times

Working to eliminate more landfill waste

A River Wards fa­cil­ity has the tech­no­logy to more ef­fi­ciently re­cycle your ap­pli­ances…for free.

This URT re­cyc­ling ma­chine, the only one of its kind op­er­a­tion­al in the U.S., is loc­ated at ARCA AP in the River Wards, and can re­cycle one re­fri­ger­at­or per minute. COUR­TESY OF ARCA AP

The River Wards are known for their his­tor­ic in­dus­tri­al areas. But few people know that today, in a little-known corner of the com­munity off the Delaware River, one of the per­haps most ad­vanced re­cyc­ling tech­no­lo­gies on the con­tin­ent is in use.

Near Frank­ford Creek on the bor­der of Port Rich­mond and Brides­burg is a com­pany with a URT re­cyc­ling sys­tem — the only one of its kind in North Amer­ica. It’s an ex­tremely ef­fi­cient re­fri­ger­at­or-re­cyc­ling device.

The URT re­cycles one re­fri­ger­at­or a minute. URT stands for UN­THA Re­cyc­ling Tech­no­logy. UN­THA is the name of the com­pany that sells these devices, and was foun­ded by Aus­tri­an in­vent­or Ant­on Un­ter­wurz­ach­er. In Europe, use of URT is much more com­mon due to stricter en­vir­on­ment­al stand­ards. But in North Amer­ica, where stand­ards are looser, only ARCA AP has one. 

Ac­cord­ing to Bri­an Con­ners, pres­id­ent and chief op­er­at­ing of­ficer of Ap­pli­ance Re­cyc­ling Cen­ters of Amer­ica Ad­vanced Pro­cessing (ARCA AP), oth­er meth­ods of re­fri­ger­at­or re­cyc­ling don’t even come close to what the 40-foot-tall URT can do. 

“Every ma­ter­i­al that we re­cycle, and that ul­ti­mately is re­pur­posed, find­ing its way in­to something new again, is ma­ter­i­al that didn’t have to be mined from the earth or man­u­fac­tured from raw ma­ter­i­als,” Con­ners said. “It’s a tre­mend­ous en­ergy and re­source saver.”

Stand­ard re­fri­ger­at­or re­cyc­ling in­volves sep­ar­at­ing and re­cyc­ling just the scrap met­al, and send­ing everything else to a land­fill, Con­ners said. That can in­clude glass, plastic, and large quant­it­ies of in­su­lat­ing foam.

But at ARCA AP, thanks to the URT, even those products are re­cycled. The URT helps make the tough-to-re­cycle foam in­to pel­lets that can be used as fuel as well as to help make con­crete. Up to 95 per­cent of the foam in a re­fri­ger­at­or can be re­cycled, far re­du­cing the waste left over from oth­er meth­ods of re­fri­ger­at­or re­cyc­ling.

The ul­ti­mate goal is that zero waste from ap­pli­ances ever goes in­to land­fills, Con­ners said.

Since its in­cep­tion in 2009, ARCA AP has re­cycled 500,000 ap­pli­ances a year. The fa­cil­ity is loc­ated near the Delaware River off of Head­ley Street and North Delaware Av­en­ue. The busy plant is packed with ap­pli­ances that are run through the URT or re­cycled us­ing oth­er tech­no­lo­gies.

“An es­tim­ated 50 mil­lion ap­pli­ances are re­cycled in the U.S. ever year, so it nev­er ends,” Con­ners said.

The top re­cycled items at ARCA AP are the same as the top-selling ap­pli­ances in the coun­try – fridges, wash­ers, driers, and ranges for gas stoves, but they also ac­cept air con­di­tion­ers and mi­crowaves, devices that can re­lease harm­ful products in­to the en­vir­on­ment if not re­cycled prop­erly.

Un­for­tu­nately, most people don’t know that their ap­pli­ances could be re­cycled more ef­fi­ciently, Con­ners said. Ac­cord­ing to Gen­er­al Elec­tric, 90 per­cent of re­fri­ger­at­ors in the U.S. are shred­ded for their met­al with the rest of the waste di­ver­ted to a land­fill. 

Some com­pan­ies will buy back used, in­ef­fi­cient re­fri­ger­at­ors that emit more green­house gases from cus­tom­ers in the U.S., and then re-sell them in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, so they just con­tin­ue to pol­lute in a new loc­a­tion, Con­ners said.

Right now, ARCA AP’s cli­ents in­clude Gen­er­al Elec­tric, the city of Phil­adelphia, nearby mu­ni­cip­al­it­ies, and any group that holds an e-cyc­ling event. An­oth­er cli­ent is the coun­try of Ber­muda, which sends its ap­pli­ances to Phil­adelphia to be re­cycled.

But ARCA AP also ac­cepts drop-offs from the pub­lic, for free, as a cour­tesy ser­vice, if you can trans­port your air con­di­tion­er or re­fri­ger­at­or by your­self to their plant on 4301 Delaware Ave.

In fact, they are cur­rently en­cour­aging more re­cyc­ling from the pub­lic, through com­munity-or­gan­ized elec­tron­ics re­cyc­ling days.

ARCA Inc., ARCA AP’s Min­nesota-based part­ner, re­cently launched gore­cyclenow.com, a web­site de­signed to con­nect mem­bers of the pub­lic and com­munity groups that want to or­gan­ize re­cyc­ling days with ARCA AP and oth­er sim­il­ar fa­cil­it­ies around the coun­try. ••

To learn about how your com­munity can hold an ap­pli­ance re­cyc­ling day with free pick-up by ARCA AP, vis­it www.gore­cyclenow.com.

For more in­form­a­tion about ARCA AP, vis­it www.ar­caap.com.

Con­tact Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house at 215-354-3124 or sne­w­house@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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