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Southwestern Pa. Goodwill branch puts donations of televisions on hiatus

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
TVs wait to be deposed of at the Goodwill on East Carson Street. The nonprofit group announced today that it would no longer accept donations of televisions.

Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Pennsylvania is pulling the plug on donations of televisions to its outlet stores.

“We no longer can recycle (them) at no cost to Goodwill,” said Michael J. Smith, president and CEO of the Goodwill chapter. “Now, we're in a dilemma. If people bring televisions to us, we have to pay to recycle them, which impacts our ability to provide programs and services.”

Goodwill, based in Lawrenceville, is a human services agency with a chain of 30 retail stores that provides job training and other services to people with disabilities.

Beginning Sunday, it will stop accepting TVs.

Among the reasons, officials cited the state Covered Device Recycling Act that banned TVs and other electronic devices from landfills as of January. It also prohibits municipal curbside pickup of televisions, computers, printers and monitors, except for collection programs specifically for electronic materials.

The state Department of Environmental Protection determines how many pounds of electronic equipment groups can pick up without incurring a fee and surcharge for collecting and recycling the extra amount.

Goodwill accepted 750,000 pounds of televisions last year. It requested authorization to collect 1.5 million pounds this year but hit that ceiling in six months.

Smith said it would cost about $125,000 to send its backlog of televisions to the recycling company, so it decided on the ban until it gets a new allocation from the state next year. He estimates Goodwill amassed tens of thousands of televisions when it announced last year that it was accepting them.

Recycling experts said Goodwill's situation and the flood of TV sets here are part of a nationwide phenomenon.

David Mazza, regional director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, said at least 20 states have similar laws banning televisions in landfills.

“Most of my competitors in Eastern Pennsylvania stopped taking televisions six weeks ago,” said Ned Eldridge, president and CEO of E-Loop, an electronic waste recycler in Murrysville. He said many recyclers have hit state limits that he considers too low.

He expects to be able to collect TVs for recycling until October.

Part of the problem, experts say, is the increasing popularity and declining prices of flat-screen plasma and LED televisions that offer sharper pictures. That encourages consumers to junk bulky, cathode ray tube dinosaurs, which are no longer used to make new TVs.

Other electronics, such as computers, can be recycled and made into new computers. Goodwill will continue a program to recycle donated computers.

Smith worries that some owners of old TVs might be tempted to dump them illegally.

“The key here is people should not panic,” Mazza said. “This is a temporary situation. At some point, (Goodwill) will be able to take TVs again. The TVs sitting down in the basement, just let them sit there.”

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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