Family accidentally recycles VCR with $6K stashed inside

SEATTLE -- One woman's "secret stash" for her $6,000 savings became one of her worst kept secrets after her family accidentally recycled it, sending the money - and its container - to a scrap yard to be dismantled, shredded, and hauled away.

The money had been stored inside a bag in the tape slot of an old VCR, but no one in the family knew about it, said Tony Hwang, of his mother's secret savings. The VCR had been given to the family by his grandmother, but sat on a shelf in the family's living room without playing tapes in recent years.

Hwang, of Shoreline, took the VCR to a free recycling event at a local high school Saturday and handed it over, not knowing what was inside.

"We were just going through our house, seeing what's old and what we can get rid of to clean up the house," he said. "Kind of like spring cleaning, but in the summer."

The family didn't realize what they'd tossed until Hwang's mother came home from work later that day.

"She was just looking for the VCR. She was really sad, so that's when we knew it was something more than just a VCR," he added. "We (went to the recycling place) on Monday morning to make sure they weren't working really early, extra hard."

"She was waiting at front of the warehouse with her daughter at 5 a.m. She wanted to go through (on) her own, in all of the trucks, find the VCR," said Michael Szanyi, owner of Renton-based 1 Green Planet, the recycling place that had hauled away the VCR. "I promised her, 'don't worry, I will find it for you.'"

It wouldn't be easy. Crews had lugged away six giant trucks' worth of old computers, video games, and appliances at the event - about 12 tons of stuff. Szanyi said the woman, who spoke very little English, didn't explain why the outdated electronic device was so important.

"The only thing she said was, 'It's a black and old VCR." She was telling me she got it from her mom and it was very important for her," Szanyi said. "I have my mom in Hungary, and I thought it's going to be a good Karma."

Szanyi's employees spent a few hours digging through the giant bins of trash. On their sixth - and final - container, employee Alberto Cordova saw a VCR that hadn't been touched at the bottom of the floor.

"That was, I think, the last VCR in the bin, and he's like, 'here!'" recalled employee Jose Sanchez. "Imagine moving microwaves. Big things. We felt good she found her money."

On Thursday, Szanyi reunited Hwang and his mother with their VCR - and the $6,000 cash.

"Please keep it in a bank, not in a VCR," joked Szanyi, as he handed over the machine.

"I think we'll get a safe," Hwang replied.