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Will my old washing machine get recycled if it is taken away by the deliverers of a new one?

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The manufacturers of most washing machines speak confidently of the water- and energy-saving aspects of their products but has less to say about issues created by their disposal. Their advice on the question of household washing machine repair versus replace is that this an individual decision. Unsurprisingly, they strongly discourage non-authorised repair attempts.

My machine is not their problem. Manufacturers don't have to deal with their products at the wrong end of their lifespan.

Most stores today offer to buy a new machine offers to take my old machine away for $20. They are uninterested in telling me what happens to these discarded appliances and I am told, surprisingly rudely, by the head office that they can't help.

I ask the warehouse of my local store how they dispose of ditched whitegoods. "They are picked up and go to landfill," one staff member tells me. Another gives me the names and numbers of two people who come to collect the waste. This leads me on a murky goose chase.

Their main collector hangs up on me more than once after I identify myself as a writer and doesn't return my call. But the other is happy to talk: "We take them away, remove any plastic contaminants and the rest, which is mainly stainless steel, is crushed up and sold to a metal recycling company."

I speak with this next company in the chain. They say are one of the world's leading publicly traded metal and electronics recyclers. Sounds promising but then again, so did the big waste companies featured on Four Corners who ended up disposing recyclable materials into illegal landfill dumps.

Will my old washing machine get recycled if it is taken away by the deliverers of a new one? I estimate the likelihood is less than 50 per cent.

Even if it is recycled, the energy needed to do this — as well as produce a new washing machine — will result in a considerable impact on the environment.

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