Five years ago, Wauconda Township officials used a big ceremonial light switch to initiate an electronics recycling program.
"I thought it was busy," Highway Commissioner Joe Munson recalled of the attendance on opening day. "We had a big to-do when we launched it."
Turns out that was just the beginning of what, despite a broader selection of choices for consumers, has become one of the most successful collections in Lake County. Township officials estimate 500,000 pounds of computers, monitors and other equipment has been dropped off and recycled the past five years.
That light switch again will flip at 9 a.m. Saturday to mark the anniversary of the monthly program at the highway department garage, 505 W. Bonner Road, just east of Route 12.
The event, held in cooperation with the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County and the villages of Island Lake and Wauconda, runs until noon.
Besides electronics, fluorescent light bulbs, used oil, antifreeze and batteries will be accepted. Visitors also can bring up to three large banker's boxes or large trash bags of papers to be shredded. Call (847) 526-8085.
Munson said he pursued the idea after being asked about the possibility by Peter Adrian, SWALCO's recycling coordinator.
"I told him I was interested because there was nowhere to go with this," electronic equipment, Munson said. Wauconda became the first highway department in the county to offer regular collection programs. The programs and amounts of materials collected have ballooned since.
"Five years ago, we were doing mostly single-day events," Adrian said. "That was really the first year we really spread out and started doing permanent collections."
In 2000 and 2001, electronics recycling consisted of a single event each year in the parking lot of Motorola in Libertyville, Adrian said. This year, there will be up to 40 chances to dispose of electronics, with about half of them available "almost year round", he added.
Last year, nearly 1.9 million pounds of electronics was recycled at Lake County events.
"Just in the first quarter of the year, we've seen volumes of material increasing two fold. If we keep this progression up, we may hit about 3 million (pounds) this year," Adrian said.
Last year, Highland Park led Lake County with 333,000 pounds collected. Grant Township was second with 238,000 pounds and Munson's program was third with 142,000 pounds.
"They're up against all of these more or less year-round operations (and) the volumes they're bringing in per collection is significant," Adrian said of Wauconda Township.
Through April 30, about 72,000 pounds of electronics have been collected at the township garage compared to about 46,000 last year -- an increase of about 57 percent.
Adrian said the state law banning electronics from landfills that began Jan. 1, has had an impact on collection numbers across the board. That has happened even though the average amount dropped off per person has dropped as the weight and size of equipment has shrunk.
"Obviously, they're not making 200-pound glass TVs anymore," he said.