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The mini-fridge use and refrigerant recovery program is the one of the most ambitious YRI proposals. Over time, YRI hopes to establish a programs in each of Yale's 14 residential college to hand down working mini-fridges from graduating students to underclassmen. Older refrigerators that would otherwise be tossed out at the end of the term will be directed to a central site in which YRI volunteers and contractors will recycle equipment components, recover refrigerant, and reclaim refrigerant for future use. 

Useful definitions:

Refrigerant recovery: The process of removing refrigerant from the refrigerator while minimizing releases of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Refrigerant recycling: A multi-stage process in which recovered refrigerant is cleaned and recharged or reused in HVAC equipment. By law, recycled refrigerant can be used only in the refrigerator from which it came, or in equipment owned by the same owner. 

Refrigerant reclaiming: Recovered refrigerant is sent to a company where it is chemically restored to virgin refrigerant status. This process cleans and renews refrigerant beyond standards required for recycled refrigerant, and can be subsequently charged into any equipment, regardless of ownership status. 



At the end of each term, Yale College students frequently toss their mini-fridges out on the street. There is no contracting service that takes these fridges away. Instead, these fridges eventually make their way to the landfill, or New Haven residents simply take the fridges home for reuse. This behavior is the leading cause of venting harmful refrigerants into the atmosphere, and a missed opportunity to reuse these fridges in a responsible way. Facilities staff, dismayed at this behavior, have called this period of the year "Yale Christmas."


  • Forbid students to dump their mini-fridges at the end of the term. Students will have three options: (1) leave their fridge on campus for reuse, (2) take their fridge back home, or (3) recycle their fridge at the YRI refrigerator recycling program. Only students who own low-Global Warming Potential mini-fridges will be eligible to leave their mini-fridge on campus for reuse.

  1. Leave fridges on campus for reuse. Each residential college will store donated mini-fridges in college storage space. College leadership can determine how many ​mini-fridges they would like to keep, depending on demand from the student body. Before the beginning of the next the term, college aides will facilitate the process of distributing these mini-fridges among students on campus, on the basis of financial need. YRI will advocate for these fridges at a lower cost compared with renting options.

  2. Take fridges back home. Students who plan to use their mini-fridge in future years, whether on campus or elsewhere, should take their mini-fridges home at the end of term or use an appropriate method of on-campus storage. Currently, there is no difference in guidance based on the type of refrigerant in these mini-fridges.

  3. Recycle fridge at YRI recycling program. If you are looking to dispose of your refrigerator, please bring it to the YRI recycling program (location TBD). If the equipment is functional, YRI will donate equipment to Habitat for Humanity. If the equipment is non-functional, or if it uses severely outdated technology, we will recover the mini-fridge's refrigerant and recycle mechanical components. Through the Student Green Innovation Fund, YRI has funding to hire contractors to perform these processes.  

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