Hundreds clean out the clutter for Pennsylvania Resources Council electronic recycling event

Michael Shanley’s crimson 1975 Mercury Cougar stood out like a rare bird among the hundreds of cars and trucks filled with old televisions and appliances that patiently snaked their way around a parking lot at the Allegheny County Airport Saturday morning.

“I didn’t know it was going to be like this,” said Mr. Shanley, 60, of West Mifflin, who also owns a black 1979 Cougar decorated in a Pirates motif and was accompanied Saturday by a small menagerie of stuffed tigers and other cats inside his vintage ride. “My wife hates these Cougars but I've had them so long that I don't think I’m ever going to give them up.”

Not so for the TV sets in his trunk, which were bound for tractor-trailers set up at the site to haul away hundreds of old computers and monitors, tires, batteries, fluorescent light tubes, polystyrene packing material, air conditioners, microwaves and other small appliances, among other items being collected for the Pennsylvania Resources Council's “Hard to Recycle” collection event.

The PRC, a nonprofit with offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that was founded in 1939 to fight roadside litter, marked its 75th anniversary on Saturday, the same day it collected the one millionth pound of electronic waste since the group started organizing the events in 2003.

Fifteen minutes after the start time, 100 vehicles had already rolled through, said Sarah Alessio Shea, the PRC’s environmental education coordinator. More than 700 households participated during the four-hour event.

“A big part of it is there are not as many options for TVs,” she added.

Pennsylvania’s Covered Device Recycling Act of 2010, which took effect last year, required recycling of televisions, tablets, computers and “peripheral” devices like keyboards and printers.

“You used to be able to throw them right in the trash,” said Chuck Stovar, 75, of Trafford, who brought in a pair of televisions more than a decade old.

“They’ve been lying around for a while.”

Volunteers helped pull the old electronics and other items from cars, placed them onto pallets and wrapped them in plastic for easier loading onto the three trailers, which can hold about 25,000 pounds each, said Russell Edwards, a salesman for eLoop LLC, the city’s largest electronic equipment recycler

Mr. Edwards said the computers are broken apart for valuables like gold in processors and copper wiring and the plastic housings and circuit boards are recycled.

Cathode ray tube televisions contain toxic materials like lead, cadmium, beryllium, PVC and mercury, among others, which can leach into groundwater and soil if left in landfills or dumped elsewhere.

“It’s a hazard to throw them away,” he said.

They can also wind up getting shipped overseas, the cheapest way for recyclers to get rid of them, where children in developing nations are exposed to the toxins as they mine through mountains of electronic waste for small bits of valuable metals.

Volunteers from Beaver County’s Nova Chemicals Corp., which helped sponsor the event along with the Allegheny County Health Department, Colcom Foundation, Duquesne Light Watt Choices, The Heinz Endowments and eLoop, grinned like they had hit a mother lode when a truck full of polystyrene packing foam pulled up.

“It’s 100 percent recyclable,” said John Thayer, Nova’s director of performance styrenics.

Robert Zullo:, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo.

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