Electronic drop-off sites get reprieve in Lake County

  • Marty Walsh, events coordinator for the Vernon Hills Park District, prepares for today's electronics recycling event.

      Marty Walsh, events coordinator for the Vernon Hills Park District, prepares for today's electronics recycling event. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer


Lake County residents will have until the end of the year to drop off unwanted electronics at one of five permanent sites, as several communities led by Grayslake pitched in to fund the program.

The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County Board on Thursday reversed a decision reached at an emergency meeting in March to close the five sites as of May 1 because of a lack of funding. Since then, about 16 communities led by $20,000 pledged by Grayslake raised the $62,000 to maintain operations in hope of finding a solution in the interim.

"Hopefully, we can get a legislative fix," said Walter Willis, SWALCO executive director, who is working on a bill to be discussed by stakeholders and eventually sent to the state legislature for consideration.

The sites are in Waukegan, Highland Park, Grayslake, Grant Township and Cuba Township. Visit www.swalco.org. Meanwhile, knowing word of the reprieve may take awhile to trickle down, organizers of a single-day electronics collection and paper shredding event today, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Metra train station lot along Route 45 in Vernon Hills are bracing for an avalanche of material.

Three trailers were planned, but a fourth was added because of expected demand, said Marty Walsh, events coordinator for the Vernon Hills Park District, one of the event sponsors. Each trailer holds about 20,000 pounds of material. Vernon Hills, another partner, will have an electronic sign at the entrance to alert drivers if the trailers are filled before the scheduled end time, and police will be stationed for traffic control.

Mark Gustafson, of Chicago Logistic Service, dropped off the trailers. He said three trailers were filled in 90 minutes and hundreds of people were turned away last weekend at a similar event in St. Charles.

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"The last time we had this (event) there were 18 sites open in Lake County and that was in 2014," Walsh said. "The main concern is getting cars off 45 and staged in the collections area. If you're looking to participate, come earlier rather than later," he advised.

State law bans electronics in landfills. Manufacturers are required to dispose of a given weight and in past years, the recycling companies they hired to do that made money on the components.

That meant agencies, such as the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, could offer drop off sites and collections events for free. But the value of the commodities fell and no longer covered program costs.

The agency said concern about the lack of recycling options for residents and need for more time to try to amend state law prompted Thursday's unanimous board action. Chairman Larry Mount, a Round Lake Beach trustee, said the board is in a tough spot. While the Lake County program is the state's most successful, the agency faces costs that never were expected.

Willis said there has been a 30 percent increase in electronic drop offs for the first quarter of 2016. "People were nervous," he said.

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