Old refrigerators can contain volatile substances that damage the earth’s ozone layer. Correct disposal ensures that the pollutants are isolated and destroyed separately.

In the context of waste, refrigerators include both household fridges and deep-freezers and large systems for use in trade and industry. They also include air conditioning appliances. The volume of appliances disposed of separately has increased steadily in recent years.

Ecological assessment

Up to 1994, the refrigerators and air conditioning appliances sold contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in their insulation and as coolants. These CFCs damaged the stratospheric ozone layer that protects the earth against the sun's ultraviolet radiation and plays an important role in regulating the climate. Under the Montreal Protocol, Switzerland prohibits the use of CFCs in most new appliances and equipment. CFCs must not be released into the environment during the disposal of old refrigerators and air conditioning equipment.

The coolants used in new devices are considerably less harmful to the environment, however they still require correct disposal. Metals and plastics can be recovered during recycling.

Separate collection

Refrigerators are subject to the provisions of the Ordinance on the Return, Take-Back and Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ORDEE). The ordinance obliges consumers to dispose of such equipment separately. Used refrigerators can be returned free of charge to over 500 official collection points throughout Switzerland of the  Stiftung Entsorgung Schweiz , SENS (Foundation for Disposal Switzerland) and to all retail outlets. In addition, the CDS Cargo Domizil AG (tel. 031 385 93 93) provides a pick-up service for appliances.

The website of the recycling associations provides a map indicating the locations of the collection points.


Refrigerators are processed in closed plants. These plants recover the CFCs almost entirely. The metal and plastics are then separated from impurities and recycled. The recovered CFCs are disposed of in a hazardous waste incinerator.

In accordance with the Ordinance on Movements of Waste (OMW), refrigerators belong to the category "other controlled waste". Waste disposal companies in Switzerland that accept such equipment require the authorisation of the canton in which the equipment is located. The export and import of such waste requires the authorisation of the FOEN. Export to states that are not members of the OECD or EU is prohibited.

Only functioning equipment that can be operated as intended and does not contain any banned coolants according to the Chemical Risk Reduction Ordinance (ORRChem) qualifies as used or second-hand equipment.


Collection and disposal are financed on a private-sector basis and administered by the SENS organisations. Based on voluntary sectoral solutions, a prepaid disposal contribution is included in the purchase price of all ORDEE equipment.

Action required

New refrigerators do not contain any CFCs. All of the substitute substances have greenhouse potential and hence contribute to global warming. Thus old refrigerators must be processed specially and with care.

Further information

Last modification 05.07.2019

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