Illinois Electronics Legislation Updates

Back in November, I wrote a post about proposed legislation to address electronics recycling challenges in Illinois. As explained in that post, in 2014 there were funding shortfalls for electronics recycling programs throughout the state, as manufacturers met their recycling quotas early in the year, after which they were no longer required to pay for processing of devices by recyclers. In response, Rep. Emily McAsey proposed an amendment to IL House Bill 4042, which would increase recycling goals so that manufacturers would be required to recycle 100% (up from 50%) 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. Electronics recycling is already free for individual consumers in IL, under these same conditions.

Since then, compromise bills have been drafted, in response to opposition from the Illinois Manufacturers Association regarding raising the recycling goal to 100% of of devices sold, as reported by Lauren Leone-Cross for Suburban Life Publications, in the 2/10/15 article,  Compromise possible in state’s recycling programs. The latest proposals increase manufacturers’ recycling weight goals to 80 percent of the weight of products they sold in Illinois two years ago, and allowing units of local government acting as collectors to collect a fee from consumers who drop off covered and eligible electronic devices for recycling.

For the text and status of related bills, visit the following links:

HB0250  and SB0035

HB1455 and SB0797

Updates will also be posted to the “U.S. State & Local Legislation” page on the SEI web site as they become available.


IL EPA Interactive Map Shows Electronics Recycling in Your Area & More

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has recently redesigned its web site. If you haven’t visited their site lately, be sure to check it out–it’s very clean, easy to navigate, and more intuitive, with information organized for different audiences (citizens, businesses, governments, and educators).

One of the new features of the site is an interactive “Services Locator” map, which allows users to search for services within a range of miles (5-100)  from their vicinity (you can enter either your zip code or the name of your city). One of the services for which you can search is the location of electronics collection/recycling sites in your area. So if you got a new gadget during the holidays and aren’t sure where you could take its predecessor for proper disposal, the IEPA map can help. If maps aren’t your style, there’s also a list of all registered residential e-waste collection sites provided, with contact information (since it’s always a good idea to double check on which items are currently accepted at a recycling center before making a trip).

In addition to electronics collection points, you can also find medication disposal locations, household hazardous waste collection sites, and vehicle emissions testing centers.

For more information on electronics recycling in IL, including the landfill ban, see the IEPA Electronic Waste Recycling program page.


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, 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

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.

Champaign County Options for Electronics Recycling & Reuse

Pile of abandoned computers and monitors in empty school classroom.If you’re like most people, you probably have an old computer, laptop, or TV stashed in your basement, closet, or garage. It’s important to recycle these devices responsibly, as they contain both valuable materials (e.g. gold, copper, rare earth elements, etc.) and substances that could cause human and environmental health problems if improperly handled during disposal (e.g. lead, mercury, flame retardants, etc.). In fact, it’s against Illinois state law to dispose of certain electronics in landfills, so these items cannot be put in your household trash. To learn more about the Illinois Electronic Products Recycling & Reuse Act, see the Illinois EPA web site and the full text of the legislation at

Where to take your stuff

Residents of Champaign County, IL are lucky to have multiple options for recycling of unwanted electronics. See the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide for the names and locations of local businesses that offer electronics recycling year-round, complete with contact information and any restrictions that apply.

Note that there are two local businesses, Best Buy at 2117 N. Prospect and Habitat ReStore at 119 E. University Avenue, which accept old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and computer monitors. Best Buy accepts up to 3 TVs per household per day in store for free, provided screens are less than 32 inches in diameter. For CRT TVs over 32 inches and flat panels over 60 inches, Best Buy will haul the devices away from a customer’s home for free, only if they purchase a new TV from Best Buy. If a purchase from Best Buy is not made, the recycling service is still available, but for a $100 fee. Habitat ReStore accepts televisions or CRT monitors if a voucher is purchased for in-store use at a cost ranging from $10 to $50 per television or CRT monitor recycled, depending on size. (Goodwill will accept only flat screen TVs that are in good working order.) See the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide for complete details. Recycling of CRT TVs and computer monitors is becoming more difficult. Susan Monte, Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, explains some of the reasons that electronics recyclers have stopped accepting TVs or tube monitors. “In Illinois, the statewide system for recycling and/or reuse of electronics items discarded from residences requires electronic manufacturers doing business in Illinois to participate in ‘end-of-life’ management of these electronic products. At this time, electronics manufacturers have met their pre-established quotas for pounds of electronics to recycle/reuse for the fiscal year, and they have stopped paying electronics recycling companies to recycle electronics items.” Televisions and cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors comprise nearly half of the electronics items brought to the residential collections. Expenses incurred by electronics recycling contractors to responsibly recycle televisions and CRT monitors far outweigh revenue.  In fact, Champaign County had planned to host an electronics recycling collection events for residents on October 11, 2014, but that event has been canceled because of the cost issue for the recycling contractor now that the manufacturer quota has been met. Monte says, “If electronics manufacturers doing business in Illinois continue to meet early quotas for pounds of electronics items collected, we may potentially plan for one or two Countywide Residential Electronics Collections to take place in the Champaign-Urbana area next spring.”  Be sure to check the county recycling guide to see if dates of upcoming events have been added (if so, they’ll be featured at the top of the document); alternatively you can always call the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission at 217-328-3313.

For information on battery recycling, check ISTC’s Battery Recycling LibGuide at

For fluorescent lamps and CFLs, see the City of Urbana”Where Do I Recycle It?” page at and the City of Champaign Recycling guide at Alternatively, you can order pre-paid mail kits (options for both CFLs & tubes) from

Can you repair devices or pass them on?

If your unwanted electronics still function please consider passing them on to friends or relatives, or donating them to an appropriate charity. If they have minor flaws or damage, check the iFixit web site to see if there are repair guides that you can follow to return get your device running again. (Yes, you can do it! I’ve had students work on iFixit guides as class projects. You don’t need to be a tech expert to repair something you own!) It’s important to extend the useful life of electronic devices for as long as possible before recycling them, because of the huge investment of human and natural resources that go into their manufacture in the first place. For example, did you know that the majority of energy used in the life cycle of a computer is in its production, not in the time it’s used by a consumer? (See and for research on this subject.)

When in doubt, give Joy a shout

So be on the look out for county electronics collection events in the future, and in the meantime, check out the local business in the county recycling guide to avoid the lines. And if your device is unwanted rather than broken, or only slightly damaged, consider giving it a new home or repairing it before it’s sent for recycling. If you aren’t sure where or if you can recycle a device, you can also contact me at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. I’ll help steer you in the right direction.

Many thanks to Susan Monte for the update on the county collection event and for the county’s press release, from which her quotes are taken. Mentions of businesses in this post are for information only and should not be construed as endorsements.

Kill Switch Info Added to U.S. State & Local Legislation Page

In my last post, I noted some updates that had been made to the U.S. Federal Legislation page on the SEI web site, including information on the debate surrounding cell phone kill switches (scroll down to “Legislation and Policies that Apply to Electronics in Other Life-cycle Stages”).

I’ve added information on the two current State laws requiring cell phone kill switches to the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. Minnesota was the first to pass such a law, in May 2014, and California just became the second a few days ago. Both laws will go into effect on July 1, 2015.

A kill switch is a means to render a device inoperable if stolen, the idea being that such a function would reduce the rising problem of cell phone theft. Pressure for such legislation has been on the rise as reports of violence tied to cell phone theft have increased and received media attention. Similar, voluntarily implemented functions have been previously made available by some manufacturers, leading some to say that legislation is unnecessary. Concern has also been expressed by opponents about whether such disabling technology could be used with ill intent with the manipulation of hackers, the example of law enforcement officers having their phones rendered inoperable in a crisis being offered as a worst case scenario.

As I point out on SEI’s federal legislation page, one potential outcome of proposed kill switch technology often ignored by the media and general public is the exacerbation of the growing e-waste problem. Kill switches are meant to render a device completely inoperable so that thieves could not reinstate the device’s capabilities. This means a perfectly functioning phone would be rendered useless, except as fodder for recycling and materials reclamation. That in itself has lead some to argue that kill switch legislation won’t work to thwart crime–as long as there’s some value, however minimal, for the materials included in what would then be an expensive paperweight, someone will be willing to steal the device, those with this viewpoint claim. For me, however, the broader issue has been the discouragement of reuse. Lots of materials and energy go into creation of our electronics–much more energy, for example, is expended in the manufacturing of electronics than is expended in their use. From a lifecycle perspective, it’s particularly important to extend the useful life of these devices. Would kill switch legislation, which may or may not end up discouraging crime, end up making it more difficult for useful products to be used to the full extent possible, I’ve wondered? What if someone misplaced their phone, had it deactivated, and then found it or had it returned by a Good Samaritan–only to find it useless? What if the authorities apprehended a thief and were able to retrieve and return a phone, again, only to leave the owner to the task of responsibly recycling and replacing it?

The encouraging thing about California’s legislation is that it requires that the “technological solution” to rendering the device inoperable upon theft be reversible, “so that if an authorized user obtains possession of the smartphone after the essential features of the smartphone have been rendered inoperable, the operation of those essential features can be restored by an authorized user.” How all of that will work, and work smoothly, remains to be seen. But this shows that legislators have heard concerns like the ones I expressed above from others, as well as arguments regarding hackers and terrorism, no matter how far fetched those might actually be, and have put some thought into countering unintended consequences.

At the end of the day, that’s what sustainability is really all about–trying to avoid and mitigate the unintended consequences of our actions and choices.

US Federal Legislation Page Updated on SEI Web Site

Photo of US Capitol BuildingThe US Federal Legislation page on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) web site has been recently updated. Updates include:

Visit the SEI Law & Policy section for full details on these US Federal measures, as well as information for the US state and local level and international policies. To suggest additions or revisions to the Law & Policy pages, contact Joy Scrogum.

Recent Headlines: Occupational Risks for US Electronics Recyclers; Counterfeit Electronics; & Tracking E-waste Exports

It has been another interesting month for sustainable electronics. Here are a few highlights:

NIOSH highlights occupational health & safety risks for US electronics recyclers

On July 24, Resource Recycling announced the release of a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report that I have long awaited, having heard about the study at a conference several months ago. The report details results from analyzing air, surface, and employee blood samples from an undisclosed US electronic scrap recycling facility. The study also entailed interviews with employees to determine possible improvements for health and safety procedures. From the report: “The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a health and safety manager at an electronic scrap recycling facility…We evaluated air, surfaces, blood, and urine for metals…We also evaluated noise exposures. We found overexposures to lead, cadmium, and noise. Some employees had blood lead levels above 10 ug/dl. We provided recommendations to prevent these exposures to employees, and to prevent unintentionally taking metals home to family members.” Lead was detected on clothing and skin of workers, and on various surfaces throughout the facility.

We often hear about risks associated with informal recycling operations in other countries in the media, but seldom, if ever, hear about risks to US workers in formal recycling operations. We also tend to take for granted that people know about the dangers of exposure to lead because of lead-based paint and the outreach associated with that—it’s really stunning to read this report and realize how big an issue the lead associated with electronics reclamation can be. We can’t assume that recycling workers are properly trained on the hazards and how to avoid contamination. A 13-point list of recommendations was drawn up to respond to NIOSH’s concerns, including updating the ventilation system, segregating CRT glass breaking areas and a remodeling of facility work stations and procedures to ensure worker safety. All facilities that handle electronic waste would do well to review this list and consider their own situations.

E-waste exports and counterfeit electronics

On July 15th, the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling issued a press release stating that defense and technology experts expressed support for the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, or RERA (HR 2791, S.2090) at a recent Congressional briefing. Their reason? The export of non-functioning or untested electronics is allegedly providing feedstock for counterfeiters in countries like China. Scrap microchips may be washed and relabeled to look new by such counterfeiting operations. These counterfeit electronics could present threats to safety and security, if they were to be used like new components in equipment and fail. The example given in the press release is that of an airplane–you wouldn’t want an older, component, sold as if it were new, to fail mid-flight. Panelists argued that RERA would combat the problem of counterfeit electronics in defense supply chains by requiring the domestic recycling of nonworking, non-tested e-waste. Plus, it could create US jobs.

Global e-waste generation and export

Finally, a new report published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, entitled Tracking the Global Generation and Exports of e-Waste. Do Existing Estimates Add up? shows that nearly a quarter of e-waste discarded in developing countries flows into just seven developing countries in 2005, with potential risks to environmental and human health in those countries. Those developing countries included China, India and five West African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin and Liberia. Researcher Knut Breivik and colleagues analyzed data from many studies to determine more reliable estimates than previously reported, highly variable estimates for global e-waste flows.

Follow SEI on Twitter to stay informed of other sustainable electronics current events, and check our online news page.

Recent Sustainable Electronics Headlines

Below are links to recent news articles related to sustainable electronics. To keep up on the latest sustainable electronics news, periodically check the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site or follow SEI on Twitter or Facebook.


Sponsor Spotlight: Arrow Electronics

Arrow Electronics logoThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is grateful to the sponsors who make it possible to award cash prizes as part of the International Sustainable Electronics Competition.

Arrow Electronics is one of our Silver level sponsors for the 2013 competition. SEI spoke with Carol Baroudi, Global Sustainability & Compliance for Arrow Electronics, recently about what the company does and their thoughts on sustainable electronics issues.

SEI: Arrow’s corporate web site states that your company “provides specialized services and expertise across the product lifecycle.” Can you explain the services Arrow provides that relate to different stages of electronic product lifecycles, and how this relates to sustainability?

Carol Baroudi: Arrow provides specialized services and expertise throughout the product lifecycle beginning with product design all the way through to a products end of life, and everywhere in between. Throughout the product lifecycle, Arrow takes our role of “guiding innovation forward” seriously.

Starting at the very beginning of product life, Arrow ethically sources electronic components for major manufacturers. We also influence product design and work to improve efficiencies in production and logistics. Our ethical supply due diligence includes reporting to the UN Global Compact and Carbon Disclosure Project as well as adherence to Dodd-Frank for Conflict Mineral reporting.

In the aftermarket space, our Value Recovery group focuses on what might be considered a product’s end of life. We do our best to extend the usable life of electronics through repair and refurbishment, returning them for use as “redeployed,” sold or donated assets. When electronics are no longer serviceable, we harvest usable parts. Before sending non usable assets to be recycled, we de-manufacture them, breaking devices down as closely as possible to commodity materials that are in turn send to specialized downstream partners. We reclaim all materials to the extent possible and return the commodities to the manufacturing stream. No electronics are landfilled. No non-functioning equipment is exported. No child or prison labor is used. No electronics are incinerated except certain media where mandated by security policy. We maintain complete transparency of all materials. Arrow facilities are compliant with both the e-Stewards and R2/Rios standards.

SEI: What is Arrow doing to incorporate sustainability into its own operations?

Carol Baroudi: Arrow has a strong culture of ethical and responsible business practices. Our director of Corporate Social Responsibility oversees all aspects of our corporate responsibility strategy, including sustainability. And, our global green team is actively working to propagate best practices across the corporation in 56 countries.

For example, most of Arrow’s distribution centers have already incorporated low-energy lighting. We aggressively recycle materials that come into our distribution centers and carefully scrutinize our packaging to determine the most sustainable options.

Arrow’s Value Recovery centers maintain the highest environmental and data security standards for the processing of electronics. We repair and refurbish equipment that can be reused, including redeployment, resale or donation. Devices that cannot be repaired are harvested for usable parts before going through our Recycle IT Right® process, which de-manufactures equipment down to as close to commodity material as possible. These separated commodities are sent to certified downstream processors specializing in specific materials such as plastic, leaded glass, copper, etc.

SEI: In your company’s business experiences, have any issues emerged which clearly require further research, education, infrastructure, or policy to improve the sustainability of the end-of-life management of electronics?

Carol Baroudi: Currently, in the U.S. there is no federal regulation regarding the handling of end of life electronics. The inconsistencies between state regulations sometimes result in landfill dumping.  Also, there’s evidence of illegal exporting of electronic waste and abuse of trust from unregulated recyclers that claim to be properly disposing of electronic devices. Europe has more broadly applied e-waste regulations, but these directives can be subject to interpretation. Around the world, emerging economies generally lack appropriate infrastructure for the reclamation of electronics, as well as the appropriate regulations. Overall, we need education, infrastructure and global policy to reverse the expanding tide of electronic waste.

SEI: Is there anything that electronics manufacturers could do to make your job easier? What about legislators?

Carol Baroudi: We encourage manufacturers to design with reuse in mind – using reclaimable materials, ease of separation, and reusable parts. We would welcome guidelines that make electronics easy to repair and repurpose.

SEI: What do you think is an example of an important fact about electronics management and distribution that consumers in general don’t realize?

Carol Baroudi: The biggest gaps lie in education. There is a lack of understanding of why it’s important to handle electronics properly – along with the environmental and data security implications.

SEI: What do you hope participants in the International Sustainable Electronics Competition will take away from the experience of entering the competition?

Carol Baroudi: We hope that tomorrow’s electronics and sustainability innovators will see opportunities to develop more sustainable electronics, from the design cradle to the end-of-life de-manufacturing process.

Thanks, Carol! See for a list of this year’s competition sponsors. Note that logos, links, and descriptions of services provided above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the competition, the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Crimes in Electronics Waste Industry now being Prosecuted

This post was written by ISTC staff member Kirsten Walker.

As more and more legislation passes related to landfill bans on electronics and electronics recycling and collection, one can certainly imagine an increase in crimes related to that legislation.

Recently, British Columbia officials charged electronics recycling company, Electronics Recycling Canada, for illegal exports of cathode ray tube monitors to China.

In the U.S., the State of Colorado has already prosecuted Executive Recycling for allegedly exporting cathode ray tubes to foreign countries, including China.

The State of California  received a plea agreement from the Tung Tai Group Inc. for 13 felony charges including forgery, false documents, filing false payment claims with the State, and illegal storage of hazardous electronic and residual waste. They collected over $1 million dollars from the State and their return punishment was to withdraw as certified recyclers and collectors, stop all recycling activities, perform 100 hours of community service, and pay $125,000.

According to Andrea Warren of Alston & Bird LLP,  “over 70 U.S. companies called the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling has pushed for legislation with stricter controls for e-waste exports, calling for e-waste recycling with better security protections and sustainability practices.”

Federal legislation known as The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, HR2284 and companion bill S1270 were introduced and died with the 112th Congress. Will these bills be revived and passed in the 113th Congress? Only time and action will tell.