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TV drop-offs burden Westmoreland County thrift stores

| Sunday, July 9, 2017, 8:39 p.m.
(Left) Joe Androstic, the president of the St. Vincent De Paul Society in Latrobe, and Bob Burlando carry donations into the back of the St. Vincent De Paul store in Latrobe on Saturday, July 8th, 2017.
Kyle Hodges | Tribune Review
(Left) Joe Androstic, the president of the St. Vincent De Paul Society in Latrobe, and Bob Burlando carry donations into the back of the St. Vincent De Paul store in Latrobe on Saturday, July 8th, 2017.
(Left) Joe Androstic, the president of the St. Vincent De Paul Society in Latrobe, carrys donations into the back of the St. Vincent De Paul store in Latrobe on Saturday, July 8th, 2017.
Kyle Hodges
(Left) Joe Androstic, the president of the St. Vincent De Paul Society in Latrobe, carrys donations into the back of the St. Vincent De Paul store in Latrobe on Saturday, July 8th, 2017.
(Left) Joe Androstic, the president of the St. Vincent De Paul Society in Latrobe, and Bob Burlando carry donations into the back of the St. Vincent De Paul store in Latrobe on Saturday, July 8th, 2017.
Kyle Hodges
(Left) Joe Androstic, the president of the St. Vincent De Paul Society in Latrobe, and Bob Burlando carry donations into the back of the St. Vincent De Paul store in Latrobe on Saturday, July 8th, 2017.

The used televisions are piling up at thrift stores in Westmoreland County, but they don't want them, don't sell them and many have nowhere they can afford to recycle them, they say.

The reason: They're caught between people dumping their used electronics at the stores after hours and a state-funded recycler temporarily out of commission.

A fire damaged the Westmoreland Cleanways' recycling center in April, meaning the nonprofit hasn't been able to accept electronics of any kind. Many thrift stores in the area are stuck with stacks of unwanted tubes.

“At night time when there's no one down there, that's the time that people want to get rid of their stuff that they have no use of,” Joe Androstic, 74, of Latrobe. president of the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store there.

Now he's got about 10 televisions sitting in the store. But it doesn't accept or sell TVs, and there's no easy way to get rid of them without paying. eLoop LLC. in Export will recycle TVs for a fee. Commonwealth Computer Recycling in Greensburg also recycles TVs, but only for commercial entities.

“I don't know of another place that was accepting televisions for free,” eLoop President and CEO Neil Eldridge said. Breaking them down can be expensive, as they often contain hazardous materials such as mercury and lack reusable metals found in computers.

Through the Covered Devices Recycling Act of 2010, which set up a state recycling program, Cleanways was able to accept televisions at no cost, but it was becoming inundated with them faster than it could transport them to a recycling plant. State law prohibits TVs from going into landfills.

“Due to the fire, we had to quit accepting them until we got cleaned up,” Westmoreland Cleanways Executive Director Ellen Keefe said. “At the same time, we were looking for a new location to move to.”

The fire hastened the organization's search for a new home, which will be in Yukon, Keefe said. The move is set for late summer and business will resume in early fall, at which point it will again be able to take electronics.

Goodwill stores in Pennsylvania and West Virginia stopped accepting television donations in 2013, but still have had TVs dumped on their grounds in the years since, said Vice President of Marketing and Development for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania David Tobiczyk. They ship electronics they can't refurbish to recycling plants through a partnership with Dell Computers, he said.

“We try to avoid putting items in the landfill whenever possible, both to be environmentally friendly and to save in costs for throwing things away,” he said.

Fred Francese, store president of the St. Vincent de Paul in Greensburg, said several TVs left at his store were moved to Westmoreland Cleanways prior to the fire, but another rogue TV recently turned up in the night.

“We just stack them in the corner until we have the chance to find a place that will take them,” Francese, 71, of Hempfield said. Donations of TVs, computers and printers aren't accepted at Francese's store.

“Those are heavy hitters for us,” he said. “We're required by law to recycle but at the same time we don't have a place to accept it.”

Francese said he used to take any unwanted TVs to the Best Buy at the Westmoreland Mall, but the store no longer accepts them. Diana Basick, director of the YWCA thrift shop in Greensburg said she used to do the same.

“I could see where it could turn into a problem,” Basick said, adding that she found a TV dumped outside her store just last week.

In Pennsylvania, electronics companies such as Sony and Samsung are supposed to foot the bill for recycling. But the cost of recycling doesn't reflect that of the device; it instead reflects the gross weight of products a company sold two years prior.

For example if an electronics company sold 1 million pounds in electronics, they would be required to pay for 1 million pounds of recycled electronics. However, many modern televisions are lightweight compared to the televisions that people are turning in to be recycled, such as cathode ray tube units, which can weigh more than 100 pounds.

Staff writer Leif Greiss contributed to this report. Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2122, mguerry@tribweb.com, or via Twitter @MattGuerry.

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