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Environment & Energy

Illegal TV Dumping on the Rise in Pittsburgh

Along with pop bottles and cigarette butts, another big name is joining the roadside trash Pantheon, televisions.

In January 2013 the Covered Device Recycling Act became effective across Pennsylvania. The law made it illegal for municipal trash collectors to pick up devices such as TVs, computers, and even keyboards. The purpose of the law was to rid landfills of harmful materials usually found in these devices including cadmium, beryllium, and lead.

However, since the law became effective, the city of Pittsburgh has seen a spike in illegal dumping of televisions. At dead end streets, beside public dumpsters, and even in local parks, abandoned TVs are popping up more and more.

“I know Allegheny Cleanways, who does illegal dump cleanup, they’re starting to find more and more TVs in their mix of what they’re pulling out because people don’t want to find an option, don’t want to deal with it, and so therefore, unfortunately, they just dump them,” said Pennsylvania Resources Council Environmental Education Coordinator, Sarah Alessio Shea.  

The city has taken notice of the increase as well.

“I think residents, not only in Pittsburgh but all over, are still trying to get the message that they are responsible for them, and they are the ones that must take them back to a reputable dealer who is willing to accept them, but there are more TVs that are placed out now,” said William Klimovich, Assistant Director in Public Works and Environmental Services for the city of Pittsburgh.

Now that leaving them beside the weekly trash haul is not allowed, some people remain puzzled about how to take care of them. People with old televisions who wish to get rid of them can contact several recyclers, although some charge a fee.

“The law itself states that it is the homeowner’s responsibility to dispose of them. It doesn’t say that the city is or that the municipality is responsible for collecting them, so ultimately if it is in front of your place, it’s at your dumpster, or on top of your dumpster, you’re ultimately responsible for them,” said Klimovich.

More planning should have gone into the law before it became effective according to Klimovich. At this point the city will tag old televisions left at the curb along with the other trash, warning the owner to take care of them and even threatening them with a citation.

“We probably have not citied anyone, that is a last resort. Most folks have either taken them back in, or they have taken them back to the dealer, and in extreme cases we have picked some of them up and brought them back down to environmental services,” said Klimovich.

The city plans to make no changes to address the televisions, and is leaving the responsibility with residents, but some residents are more affected than others.

“Obviously if you’re a senior … [or] handicapped it’s a little bit more difficult to dispose of them then the average person, so there are some burdens placed on people who have those handicaps or age barriers,” said Klimovich.

Despite the increase in dumping, Shea says there are also some positive side effects.

“It’s also increased the level of material that is being recycled,” said Shea

Shea says since the law became effective more people have been forced to become educated on the harmful materials in televisions. Also, she says more people have come out to recycling events that the Resources Council holds to properly dispose of their TVs. In a four-hour collection event Shea says they can collect upwards of 100,000 pounds of electronic material.