A Spring Cleaning Guide for E-waste
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will guide you to the proper dumping ground for your old electronics.
John likes electronics. He hasn't achieved geek rank, but his house is in fashion with a full complement of computers and printers, TV in several rooms, games, iPods, Wii; and, of course, each member of the family has his or her own cell phone.
The only cloud on this digital horizon is that electronic devices—like the human beings science fiction writers tell us they will replace—die.
So, what does John do when one of his electronics shuffles off this mortal coil?
"Mostly, I just hang on to them,'' he says. "I have an old computer in my basement and two TVs. Nobody wants to buy old TVs. I couldn't even give them away at a garage sale.''
And he can't just throw them out. E-waste, as it is called, contains toxin-laden materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic, to name just a few.
To help deal with a growing e-waste problem, Illinois enacted the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act in September 2008. The E-Waste Act requires manufacturers to provide facilities to accept e-waste from consumers. E-waste includes computers, TVs, cell phones, PDAs, printers, fax machines, game consoles, VCRs, DVD players, iPods. Calculators and typewriters are excluded.
On its Web site, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has a list by county of more than 200 e-waste collectors you can contact about recycling either at no charge, or, if there is a fee, in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar coupon consumers can use to reduce the cost of new equipment. The list, sorted alphabetically by county, includes the collection site address and the manager's name and phone number.
Don't just show up clutching your e-waste. Many of the collection sites are open only at limited times. Call the manager and ask about the site's schedule and what type of e-waste the site accepts.
The IEPA Web site also has a list of manufacturers that have registered with the state and comply with state law, as well manufacturers that have not so registered. These firms are prohibited from selling residential electronics in Illinois.
The IEPA each year assigns recycling goals by weight to each electronics manufacturer. Once a manufacturer reaches its goal, it may no longer offer free electronic recycling for the remainder of the year. Check with the recycler first. This program is not for businesses. The IEPA Web site is EPA.E-Recycling@illinois.gov.
Incidentally, the recycling goal for all manufacturers for 2011 is 28,203,213 pounds.
Municipalities sometimes have specific events that allow residents to dispose of their e-waste. These vary from town to town. Check with your village hall to see if and when such an event may occur.
Some counties also assist residents in disposing of their e-waste.
Through an agreement between the county and Creative Recycling Systems, DuPage has an an electronic recycling program at the Glendale Heights Public Service garage, 1635 Glen Ellyn Rd. But the program is only from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays May through November.
Bloomingdale Township's highway department, 123 N. Rosedale, operates an e-waste recycling center from 8 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of every month. Call 630-529-5221.
Kane County will conduct its next e-waste collections 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 13-14 at the office of the Kane County Circuit Clerk, 540 S. Randall Rd., St. Charles. For more information, click here.
Cell phones are among the fastest growing types of trash. The average American gets a new cell phone every 18 to 24 months. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans discard 125 million phones each year.
SCARCE (School and Community Assistance for Recycling & Composting Education) accepts cell phones, chargers, batteries and accessories to refurbish and distribute to seniors and others in need of phones. SCARCE is at 799 Roosevelt Rd., Building 2, Suite 108, Glen Ellyn. Call 630-545-9710.
Some municipalities have programs for accepting cell phones for the needy. Check with your village hall.
Call2Recycle is a nonprofit organization that offers consumers and retailers in the U.S. and Canada ways to recycle old phones. Consumers can enter their Zip code on the group's Web site and be directed to a drop box in their area. Many electronic retailers participate, including Radio Shack and Office Depot.
Another option: trading or selling. Many retailers will take your old electronics off your hands when you buy a new one from them. And the Internet is full of businesses that will pay for used electronics.
"So, I don't have to dump my old computer by the neighbor's garbage can in the dead of night,'' John laughs. "Not that I ever would do that.''