Electronics drop-off overwhelming Wauconda Township
Since most of Lake County's electronics collection sites closed, Wauconda Township's program has experienced growing demand that officials say could prompt it to seek financial help from communities to continue the service.
Whether that will happen or how it would be done is months away from being assessed, but already the township has decided to stop providing employee help on the first Saturday of the month to residents unloading the unwanted items.
"It's a good thing," Wauconda Township Supervisor Glenn Swanson said of the drop-off service. "I don't want to see this stuff in the ditch, but we've become a recycling center more than a township highway department."
The highway department, part of the township complex at 505 W. Bonner Road in Wauconda, works with the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County as one of six remaining year-round collection sites in the county for electronics recycling and disposal. There had been 18 permanent sites, but with manufacturer reimbursements falling short, most closed late last year and have not reopened.
"We used to get money back to offset our overtime. We don't get that anymore," Swanson said.
Electronics were banned from landfills beginning in 2012.
Last year, a record 256,926 pounds of electronics were collected in Wauconda Township. The program began in May 2007, and 78,176 pounds of electronics were collected through the end of that year. Swanson said 178,021 pounds were collected through this May, which is also a record pace. He said a minimum of 25 vehicles a day stop to drop off electronics.
The cost of removing electronics from drop-off sites traditionally has been paid by companies that manufacture the products. That provided a free service for consumers and a profit for the solid waste agency, which contracts with a recycling company to pick up the discards.
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.
But manufacturer funding is falling short of the cost across Illinois, said Walter Willis, executive director of Lake County's solid waste agency.
Late last year, the agency agreed to kick in $200,000 to make up the difference in funding that is not received from manufacturers.
"We are going to run out of money at our current rate we think sometime in August," Willis said.
The agency will decide this month if it needs to contribute another $130,000 to fund the program through the end of the year. Pending state legislation could allow the program to be extended at no cost, but the situation is fuzzy at this point, he said.
"If we do not have a contract with no cost to us, we will temporarily shut down our program in 2016," Willis said.