Area residents find ways to recycle electronic items

More than a year since a law went into effect banning disposal of electronics at state landfills, the calls still come in.

Residents wonder why the TV or computer they’ve left out on the curb wasn’t picked up by the trashman.

“The customer will realize that we didn’t pick it up, so they’ll give our office a call,” said Mike Buss, customer service supervisor for MDC Environmental Services, which collects waste in several McHenry County municipalities. “We’ll instruct them on how to dispose of it properly.”

Close to 39 million pounds of electronics were recycled in the first year of the ban, under the state’s electronic products recycling and reuse act. In addition to placing responsibility on consumers to recycle their electronics, the act calls the manufacturers of such products to action, assigning each a minimum recycling goal.

In effect, the act forces manufacturers to recycle as much product as they sell. Starting in 2013, each year manufacturers will be responsible for bringing in half of their total sales from the previous two years.

Under the new act, the recycling model has been broken into three parts, said John Niziolek, owner of Crystal Lake-based Computer Recycling Center LLC. Consumers bring their products to “collectors” or “recyclers,” such as Niziolek, who then sell the recycled goods to a “processor.”

Processors sell those products back to manufacturers, at least until those manufacturers meet their yearly requirements.

“There’s a fluctuation in the market,” Niziolek said. “If they’ve met their quota, they’re done.”

By the start of 2013, 71 manufacturers had registered their recycling figures with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The six that hadn’t are subject to fines from the IEPA.

In 2012, 11 companies brought in at least 1 million pounds of recycled products, with Hewlett Packard, Samsung and Best Buy leading the way, according to the IEPA.

Best Buy recycles electronics at a local level, picking up large items directly from customers’ houses and offering recycling kiosks at the front of stores, said John Falk, a customer service representative at the Crystal Lake location.

The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County also hold a monthly drive collecting electronic products, alternating each month between locations in Woodstock and McHenry.

MDC leaves notes on electronics they find sitting on the curb, informing owners to call the office for instructions on how to properly dispose of the products.

Computer Recycling Center now accepts drop-offs on a daily basis, rather than participating in regular community drives.

“Our year-round collection numbers have gone way up,” Niziolek said. “They’re not having to stockpile this stuff waiting for a particular event.”

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