50 Million Tons of Electronics Waste — How We're Keeping Our Share Out of Landfills

50 Million Tons of Electronics Waste — How We’re Keeping Our Share Out of Landfills

  • This is the fifth and final installment of a five-part series on Kane County’s recently updated Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Plan, which includes 20 recommendations for Kane County’s future waste disposal. The articles are written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland.

Worldwide, up to 50 million tons of electronic waste is estimated to be generated annually, and the U.S. EPA estimates that 85 percent of it ends up in landfills. However, many of you will have noticed that you cannot just plop your TV or computer out at the curb for collection anymore. The haulers won’t take them because they are banned from landfills in Illinois.

e-cycle imageWhy are residents now required to take electronics equipment to a recycling facility? Here’s the skinny:

In 2009, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act (PA 95-0959). This law banned 17 electronic items from Illinois landfills, beginning in 2010, and requires product manufacturers to establish programs to recycle this material. The law has promoted growth in the recycling industry, making it possible to recycle nearly all household electronics item.

Since the ban came into effect in January 2011, recycling programs have flourished, with more than 160 million pounds of electronics being recycled instead of landfilled in Illinois.

Kane County actually began conducting collection events for this material in 2000, way in advance of the ban, because many computer and electronic components contain resources such as precious metals (which include gold, cadmium, lead and silver) and plastic that can be reclaimed, reused and recycled. These materials are also potentially toxic if not processed and disposed of properly.

Recycling, rather than dumping these materials, uses far less energy than mining and refining raw metals and reduces the amount of energy and other resources used in new-product manufacturing. It just makes sense to recycle these materials.

In Kane County, you can recycle TVs, computers, phones, and all items included in the list of legislated items, but you can also recycle almost anything else that has a plug on it!

electronics recycling instructionsBetween 2000, when Kane County began the electronics recycling collection program, and 2009, 65 collection events were conducted, serving a total of 30,716 participants and collecting about 3.6 million pounds of material.  Since 2009, participation has increased significantly due to the ban. From 2010 to mid-2015, Kane County has conducted 68 events, which, in addition to the permanent drop-off locations, have served more than 70,000 residents and collected more than 7 million pounds of electronics.

In 2015 and in past years, Kane County’s residential program includes a monthly collection event in St. Charles as well as four permanent drop-off locations at the Public Works buildings in the cities of Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles, and the village of West Dundee. The event and drop-offs are for Kane County residents only and are not open to businesses.

Due to logistical difficulties and health risks associated with operating an outdoor event in extreme weather, there will be no collection events during the winter months, starting in 2016. There will be no recycling events in the months of January, February, March, or December of 2016.

The last event in 2015 will be held Dec. 12.

At present, it is assumed that the drop-offs will remain open throughout the year. See the Kane County Recycles Electronics webpage for more information.

After electronics are delivered to the event or drop-offs, they are taken to eWorks Electronics Services Inc., a local R2 (Responsible Recycling) certified electronics recycling processor in Elk Grove Village.

eWorks was established in 2009 to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities. To achieve this mission, eWorks partners with agencies such as AHRC, Misericordia, and AID that provide a variety of premium services to assist people with disabilities. eWorks provides recycling and refurbishment services of all types of office and industrial technologies and consumer electronics. Their process uses the highest industry certifications in safety and security.

Kane County has been working with eWorks since February of 2014, and is very pleased with their comprehensive and professional service.

The 2015 Kane County Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Plan Update includes three recommendations on electronics recycling that speak to maintaining the most cost-effective program possible for Kane County, and remaining engaged on a state level to monitor movement in this arena and track legislative amendments.

Thank you all for reading these articles on the topics covered in the Solid Waste Plan. Please review the plan if you get a chance and feel free to call Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland at 630-208-3841 or recycle@countyofkane.org with any questions.

More information can be found on the Kane County Recycles website.

Solid Waste Plan Series