Recycle now or forever hold your junk

You might recall an article in this column some time back that discussed how to properly dispose of electronics so that you would not fall prey to identity theft scams. Well, now there’s even more reason to be careful how you dispose of electronics. By the time you read this article, it is likely that a new law will already be in place regarding the recycling of electronic waste.

Illinois will ban electronics from landfills beginning Jan. 1, 2012.  Illinois’ electronic waste standard is one of the strongest in the nation, and requires manufacturers of electronics to provide free recycling options to Illinois consumers. As of Jan. 1, consumers will be encouraged to take advantage of free recycling options.

Public Act 97-0287 bans 17 electronic products from landfills.  The landfill ban includes: TVs, computers (including desktop, notebook, tablet), monitors, printers, computer peripherals, VCRs/DVD players, gaming systems, MP3 players, scanners, fax machines and small scale servers.  These products contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and beryllium that must be properly managed to prevent soil and groundwater contamination.

Illinois Senator Susan Garrett and Representative Daniel Biss sponsored the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act that requires manufacturers to take responsibility for recycling obsolete residential electronic products. Obsolete electronic products also contain valuable materials that can be recycled for reuse such as copper, gold and circuit chips.  The law requires electronics manufacturers to set up a take-back program for used electronics or partner with local recyclers to offer residents a free electronics recycling program at venues close to home.

“The residential electronic recycling program keeps toxic chemicals out of our soil and water, creates new jobs for the state’s recycling industry and makes recycling easy for consumers without any additional costs,” said Melville Nickerson, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which advised on policy and built support for the legislation. “Illinois is one of 25 states that has passed legislation to solve the problem of discarded electronics, the fastest growing element of our country’s municipal waste stream.”

The Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act culminates years of work by Senator Garrett, Representative Biss, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and other business and environmental organizations to address the growing problem of obsolete electronics. According to the U.S. EPA, Americans throw away 400 million electronic products each year.

So where do you need to take your old electronics for recycling? Well, the Illinois EPA has compiled a complete list of e-waste collection locations at Just scroll toward the middle of the page until you see the link that says, “collection site locations.” Click that link and an Excel sheet will open with all of the locations.

Keep in mind that for most of the locations you cannot simply show up with your old electronics. Most have specific hours during which they accept e-waste, so it’s best to call first. Be sure to also ask what types of materials they will accept. Not all sites will accept everything.

One final bit of information that may add to your decision on when to recycle. According to the EPA’s website, “The Illinois EPA assigns an annual recycling goal to each electronics manufacturer. Once that goal is achieved, a manufacturer and its collection sites may decide to no longer offer free electronics recycling for the remainder of the year. Your local collector can tell you if free e-waste recycling is available, or if you can avoid any charges by holding your equipment until next year.”

Of course, most sites will still accept electronic materials after their quota has been met, but they may charge you a fee. So, if you have some recycling to do, remember that it’s best to get it done early!

Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in Springfield. He is a specialist in the IT field with over 12 years of experience working in leadership roles for technology based projects in Illinois and Missouri.