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Electronics Now Banned From State Landfills

An employee at Recycle Tech Solutions inspects an old computer that was recently turned in to be recycled. Photo by Chris Heisler.

Chris Heisler’s phone has been ringing more than ever now that  it’s illegal for e-waste–including MP3 players, video game consoles, TVs and other electronics– to go into Illinois landfills under a state law that took effect Jan. 1.

Heisler is the director of recycling for Recycle Tech Solutions, a Chicago-based e-waste recycler, located in the Pullman neighborhood.

Over the past three weeks, the company, located at 11235 S. Cottage Grove Ave., has had 40 percent more phone inquiries from Chicago residents about e-waste recycling than ever before.

Heisler predicts the law will eventually bring more business and jobs to the South Side recycling company.

“We won’t be hiring at the moment, but in the future, I would assume we would be,” Heisler said. “It’s just going to be more business for us.”

Under the law, old electronics can’t be thrown into blue recycling bins. Instead, Illinois residents and businesses are required to drop off e-waste to approved recyclers, refurbishers and collectors free of charge.

The E-waste Act also increases the state’s residential electronic recycling goal from 28 million pounds in 2011 to 53 million pounds in 2012, said Mel Nickerson, staff attorney with the Midwest-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, who helped author the law.

“That’s the highest residential recycling goal in the nation,” Nickerson said. “Illinois has one of the nation’s strongest laws– without a doubt.”

Dan Kehoe, marketing manager of the Chicago lamp and battery recycler Everlights, located at 9901 S. Torrence Ave., which also collects e-waste, said some manufacturers have contacted the company about the law.

“It’s only been a couple weeks, but we’ve seen a lot of questions come in,” Kehoe said. “They are wondering how it will affect their business.”

Manufactures that sell electronics in Illinois will have to recycle 50 percent by weight of what they sold in the prior year, said Nickerson. This means collecting old products consumers bring back to various stores that sell the product.

“If you’re Apple and sold 100 million pounds, you have to recycle 50 million pounds of electronics to meet you goal,” he said.

Manufactures will be fined 70 cents per pound if they fail to recycle at least 60 percent of their goal.

“It’s the nation’s highest per-pound fine,” Nickerson said.

The E-waste Act was signed into law September 2008. The law required the state-wide landfill ban to start Jan. 1, 2012.

“It’s a little a misnomer to say it’s a new law,” said Dave Walters, manager of the waste reduction section of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the state agency that administers and enforces the law.

Up until the New Year, there were no restrictions on how a resident could dispose of their electronics, he said.

“The garbage man would just haul them away, and into the landfill they would go,” Walters said.

Residents will now see a $25 fine if caught throwing out electronics on their first offense and $50 on the second offense, said the Environmental Law and Policy Center’s Nickerson.

But residents probably won’t see those fines, because the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency “doesn’t have the man power to snoop around your garbage,” Nickerson said.

“There is no garbage police for residential home owners.”

Electronics should not go into a landfill because many of them contain harmful heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, which can leak into ground water and contaminate it, Walters said.

Used electronics also contain many valuable products such as plastic and gold solder, among others, which can be reused.

More information about the E-waste Act and a list of Illinois e-waste recyclers can be found on the state’s Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Find the complete list of banned e-waste here.

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