Case Studies

11,000 Fridges with EcoCentral


Christchurch’s EcoCentral is an organisation for which sustainability is at the core of everything they do, from recycling and resale to refrigerant recovery.

Part of Christchurch City Holding Limited and 100% owned by the Christchurch City Council, EcoCentral operates facilities dedicated to diverting as much value from waste streams as possible. EcoCentral runs, under contract to Christchurch City Council, three EcoDrop transfer stations, a material recycling facility named EcoSort, the famous EcoShop on Blenheim Road, and three resource recovery centres.

Speaking with Julie Radcliffe, EcoShop & Recovery Manager at EcoCentral, the focus on diverting from the waste stream is core to the whole operation, and the recovery of domestic refrigerant is no exception.

“In the last 12 months, and this is growing because we're taking on more people, we've recovered the refrigerant from 11,000 fridges and approximately 500 heat pumps.”

All refrigerant recovered by the EcoCentral team is responsibly destroyed through Cool-Safe.

EcoCentral’s refrigerant recovery is part of their free recycling and recovery network for households. Accepting refrigerators and other whiteware from Christchurch residents at any of their collection stations, the EcoCentral team tests the product for faults and makes repairs where possible with a mind to passing it on for further use. If it can’t be repaired, the product is broken down into useful parts for use in other repairs, or for recycling, and the refrigerant is recovered for disposal.

“For us, it's all about that diverting. It's about believing in that future focus, the future generations, and leaving a sustainable legacy.”

Julie’s team doesn’t just focus on recovery in Christchurch City. Because they have the skills and experience to manage refrigerant recovery from the range of domestic appliances, the EcoCentral recovery team also travels, in their EV van, as far as Hurunui and Ashburton to recover refrigerant.

“We offer the service to the other district councils as well because we want to be able to provide a solution and we're pretty good at what we do. If we can offer that to the other councils, it just takes that pressure off.”

“For us with our mobile recovery rig it's easiest to shoot down South and solve that problem.”

“And the buy-in from the staff, the passion that goes with it, that's really cool. We are so incredibly proud of what we do.”

Community is also at the heart of EcoCentral’s purpose. As firm supporters of the local student community, EcoCentral offers affordable furniture and appliances for flats. A favourite event is their famed Pizza and Pillage nights, during which Julie puts on a spread of pizzas for shoppers and offers large discounts to help students get their new home ready for the year.  

Providing services like this, as well as taking part in programmes like Project Uplift which provides bras all over the world wherever they are needed, means that EcoCentral is taking every opportunity to keep useable products and materials out of landfill.

When something can’t be reused or recycled, it is safely and responsibly disposed of.

“We also take on and deal with waste. Our focus is to make sure that everything is dealt with safely and responsibly, even the things that shouldn’t be brought to us!”

Julie’s team continues to grow to meet the needs of recovery, especially for the time-consuming process of refrigerant recovery from household appliances like heat pumps.

“Taking off the nuts at the back of the fridge can eat a lot of time for instance, so we have a process, and we stick to it. Heat pumps are probably the hardest and it is so easy for someone who's getting rid of a heat pump to just cut the line and forget about it.”

“We don’t want that, that’s why when they come here there’s a free drop off area. It's providing a service and doing the right thing safely”.

Julie, and EcoCentral’s, vision is to always do the right thing and find ways to make, and keep, disposal sustainable.

“We're trying to be solution based.”