On Wednesday afternoon, at least two valley residents received robocalls from FirstEnergy, saying their previously scheduled appliance recycling pickups had been canceled.

The program, which FirstEnergy first announced back in June, gave Ohio residents $75 to recycle their old refrigerators and freezers or $35 to recycle their working dehumidifiers, room air conditioners, or mini refrigerators.

In addition to the payout, FirstEnergy offers rebates for residential customers to purchase new ENERGY STAR certified appliances, amounting to hundreds of dollars in some cases for large appliances like electric clothes dryers, refrigerators, and water heaters.

For one of those valley residents, Norene Kenyhercz, FirstEnergy sent a text message on Tuesday to confirm the pickup of her refrigerator. The next day, after waiting more than 7 hours for FirstEnergy to arrive, she received the robocall saying FirstEnergy's program had been suspended. 

Now, Kenyhercz says, she's stuck with both her old fridge, which she's stored in her dining room, and no rebate to help with the costs. 

"It'll cost me money to hire someone to haul this away." She told 21 News. Kenyhercz also says she purchased her new fridge from Lowes, who offers to haul away old appliances for free when they deliver new ones to a customer's home. 

Another resident, Tom Evans, tells 21 News that he's also facing a similar issue. He signed up for the program the day before he ordered his new fridge, and kept his old one when the new fridge was delivered despite being able to have it taken away for free. Now, he's also stuck with two refrigerators, one old and one new, and no rebate from FirstEnergy.

The idea behind the program was to incentivize citizens to upgrade into new, more energy-efficient appliances which would help them save energy and reduce their electric bills. However, the program seems to have been abruptly discontinued with little notice and even less recourse for those who are now stuck with old appliances. 

As of Wednesday night, the Appliance Recycling Program is still advertised on FirstEnergy's website as a program available for homeowners to help save energy. However, when you click on the link to the program's page, it reads in part, "Due to circumstances beyond our control, our Appliance Recycling Program has been suspended. If you have an existing appointment, we are unable to pick up your appliance(s)."

While people may be stuck with old appliances, there is some limited recourse for those who have had their old appliances taken but not yet received their rebates, or have yet to cash their rebate checks.  

FirstEnergy issued a statement which reads in part:

Due to circumstances beyond our control, our Appliance Recycling Program has been suspended. This unexpected situation impacts customers with existing scheduled pickup appointments, as well as customers whose appliance(s) have been picked up and their rebate is outstanding.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this unexpected situation has caused you. We are committed to offering you helpful programs and resources and thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

The cancellation of the program was due to the contractor, ARCA, unexpectedly ending operations. There are currently no plans to restart the Appliance Recycling program; however, we will evaluate the possibility of offering the program through other vendors in the future.

According to FirstEnergy's website, the following options are available for people who have concerns about their rebates:

  • If you have not yet received a rebate check from ARCA Recycling, rest assured we will honor your rebate and appreciate your patience as we resolve this issue. We will contact you as soon as possible regarding your rebate payment.
  • If you have received a rebate check from ARCA Recycling (Citizens Alliance Bank)please do not cash it as it may result in bank fees. We will contact you as soon as possible to issue a new rebate payment.
  • If you have been charged a bank fee for attempting to cash an invalid rebate check, we apologize. In addition to honoring your rebate for participating in the program, we will reimburse you for any bank fees you’ve incurred for attempting to cash an invalid check. Please email [email protected] with your account number, name, mailing address, check amount and proof of bank fees associated with the invalid rebate check.

Currently, there's no advertised plan to compensate customers like Kenyhercz and Evans who had a pickup arranged that was unable to be fulfilled, leaving them with old appliances and no rebates to help offset the costs of their new ones. 

ARCA Recycling is an appliance recycler based out of Minnesota that was slated to recycle some of the appliances collected by FirstEnergy's program. It is currently unclear whether the suspension of FirstEnergy's program has anything to do with any contract or operations concerns between FirstEnergy and ARCA. 21 News has also reached out to ARCA for comment and has not yet received a response. 

FirstEnergy's website also states that they "do not plan to resume the Appliance Recycling Program."