Legislation Proposed to Address Electronics Recycling Challenges in IL

Tomorrow, November 15th, is America Recycles Day (ARD), an annual celebration to raise awareness of recycling opportunities and encourage US citizens to increase their recycling, as well as to buy products made with recycled materials. Read the Presidential Proclamation on America Recycle Day 2014 at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/14/presidential-proclamation-america-recycles-day-2014, and Keep America Beautiful’s ARD web site for more information.

Of course it’s very important to remember to properly recycle electronic devices for a multitude of reasons, including the reclamation of precious materials, keeping toxins out of the environment, and being conscious of the energy and other natural and human resources invested in the creation of the gadgets upon which we’re increasingly dependent. In Illinois, however, electronics recycling programs have faced challenges in 2014, resulting from the current wording of the State’s Electronic Products Reuse and Recycling Act. If you read this blog regularly, you’ve perhaps noticed announcements of cancellations of electronics collection events sponsored by counties or municipalities, or the discontinuation of certain electronics recycling services. The reasons behind many of these occurrences have to do with the fact that current IL law is meant to fully pay for residential electronics recycling, with manufacturers paying to recycle a percentage, by total weight, of covered electronic devices they sold within IL two years prior to the year in question. This is a form of extended producer responsibility. Illinois’s law, which includes a landfill ban on certain electronic devices and fines for failure to meet these recycling quotas, was heralded as one of the strictest in the country when it took effect a few years ago.

However, the weight-based quotas are currently failing to meet demand for electronics recycling, as 1) more and more electronic devices enter the waste stream, 2) electronics become increasingly smaller and lighter over time, and, 3) many older, heavier “legacy” devices, like Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors and TVs, are being recycled by consumers. CRT monitors contain lead, which explains why that old computer monitor you may have stored in your basement is so darn heavy. Over time, the manufacturers’ weight-based quotas have been reached earlier and earlier in the year, and the recycled devices effectively represent less of the actual number of devices sold in the State as heavier items like CRTs are counted toward the quotas. Once those quotas are reached, manufacturers are no longer required to pay recycling contractors to process electronic devices covered under the law. So unless the companies, non-profit organizations, or local governments collecting electronic devices are willing or financially able to pay the electronics recyclers for processing, electronics recycling events or services may be discontinued after those quotas are reached. As noted in a recent Herald-News article by Lauren Leone-Cross, the Will County electronics recycling program, for example, may be in jeopardy unless legislative action is taken to address these issues.

This electronics recycling crisis has lead to the filing this week (11/12), by Representative Emily McAsey, of a proposed amendment to House Bill 4042. This amendment would increase recycling goals so that manufacturers would be required to recycle 100% of the total weight of covered electronic devices sold in Illinois during the calendar year two years prior to the applicable program year. It would also prevent local governments acting as collectors from being charged a fee by registered refurbishers or recyclers to recycle or refurbish covered and eligible electronic devices, unless they are provided either a financial incentive (such as a coupon of equal or greater value than the fee being charged) or a premium service (such as curbside collection, home pick up, or similar method of collection), the latter being more applicable for local governments. Read the full text of the proposed amendment at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/98/HB/PDF/09800HB4042ham001.pdf.

Continue to monitor the SEI Blog and the US State & Local Legislation page on the SEI web site, for more information on this situation as it unfolds.

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