Lake County agency to close electronic waste collection sites

  • An electronics recycling drop-off site in Lake Zurich.

    An electronics recycling drop-off site in Lake Zurich. Courtesy of Solid Waste Agency of Lake County

 
 
Updated 12/15/2014 5:17 PM

Lake County residents with unwanted electronics may want to hustle to the nearest collection point before the plug is pulled on free drop-off sites.

The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, which works with 40 municipal partners and collects from 18 permanent sites, plans to close them all until further notice beginning Thursday. Whether they will reopen at some point is in flux as the agency determines its next step in what could become a $200,000 annual expense for what had been a free service.

 

While options such as scrap yards or retail outlets are available to residents, they are less convenient and may charge fees or have limitations, according to Walter Willis, the agency's executive director.

"I want the public to be aware. I don't want them to be alarmed or angry with us, but these last couple of months we've been caught totally by surprise," Willis said.

Vernon Hills and other communities have alerted residents that the last day for the agency's year-round facility at its public works department is Thursday.

"It's very, very popular," said David Brown, public works director/village engineer. "There will be a concern with Christmas shopping and people getting new televisions, etc., and the ability for them to get rid of their old televisions now that there's a landfill ban."

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The waste agency hires a company to collect discarded electronics, which are dismantled into various materials to make new goods. A 2008 state law requires manufacturers that sell electronic products in Illinois to recycle or refurbish a certain weight of what is sold and pay to have the certain items collected and recycled.

In Lake County, that has resulted in a free program for residents and a modest revenue source for SWALCO. But with the current contract ending, manufacturer funding is falling short of the cost, Willis said. The problem is affecting government collectors throughout the Illinois, he added.

"That's what we're in the middle of now -- how much do they want from us and it's too much," he said. "It's been a flip-flop from how it worked in the past," he added.

Mark Denzler, vice president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, said some collectors reach their weight allocation before the end of the year, particularly as older, heavier items are recycled. He said language in the law calls for an automatic review next year to be overseen by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"This is a valuable program and our members certainly are willing to pay for it," Denzler said. Manufacturers also will be working with various agencies in the short term as needed, he added.

Collection proposals examined so far would require the waste agency to spend more than $200,000 per year to continue the program, according to Willis. The executive committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to review proposals and provide direction on whether or how to continue the collection program.

Electronics were banned from landfills beginning in 2012 and local collections in Lake County have soared. About 3.1 million pounds were collected that year; more than 3.9 million pounds in 2013 and about an equal amount so far in 2014 through October, according to the agency. About two thirds of the weight this year has been in TVs and monitors, Willis said.

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