From the NY Times:
The appliances did not develop legs and walk away, and they did not simply disappear.
Scavengers, to be sure, abound in New York, especially during tough economic times. But the sheer magnitude of the thefts — 11,528 appliances, to be precise — over a relatively brief period suggests to some in city government and the recycling industry that a more organized enterprise may be at work as well.
Deepening the mystery, these were neither the latest Sub Zero behemoths, sleek Bosch nor stylish retro Smeg refrigerators. They were garbage, quite literally — discarded appliances left at the curb for pickup by the Sanitation Department.
And while the value of one discarded appliance may seem marginal at best, in the scrap industry, the fluctuations of commodity prices and volume add up to real money.
Indeed, the big loser in what might be called New York’s Appliances Caper appears to be a multinational recycling conglomerate, a subsidiary of which has a large city contract to recycle the hundreds of thousands of tons of metal, glass and plastic generated each year by New Yorkers, including bulk metal, like appliances.
The subsidiary, Sims Municipal Recycling of New York L.L.C., estimates that the thefts, along with schemes involving redeemable bottles, are costing the company $2 million to $4 million a year.