Recently, two amendments were introduced to Senate Bill 1417, which would overhaul Illinois’ electronic waste (e-waste) recycling program. This bill will be heard in Senate Environment committee tomorrow.

The passage of Illinois’ e-waste program in 2009 was a major achievement for environmental groups.  In the first several years of the program, there were huge gains in the amount of electronics recycled and also in jobs created by electronic collectors and recyclers in Illinois.  Unfortunately, in the last three years, unforeseen market changes impacted the ability of this program to be effective.

The current Illinois e-waste program contains weight based goals for manufacturers to meet with respect to residential electronics recycling that are based on the weight of electronics sold in Illinois in the previous year.  In the last several years the weight of electronics sold has gone down significantly because of lighter products and declining sales – think about the weight difference between your old tube TV and the newer flat screens. As a consequence, recycling goals were reduced. In addition, there are concerns about loopholes that caused counties and other collectors to pay for increased costs of conducting an electronic waste recycling program.

As now amended, SB1417 will transition Illinois from a weight based standard to a convenience standard. The current system is broken and legislators have made a sincere effort to work with local governments, recyclers, collectors, manufacturers and environmentalists to try a new approach.  We are hopeful that the convenience standard will stabilize the program, provide consistent support for local governments and collectors, and increase opportunities for residential recycling.

Starting in 2019, the new law will create a convenience standard for recycling electronics in Illinois, which will allow counties to apply to a manufacturer clearing house to host a permanent recycling drop off site:

  • Any county that applies could get a number of permanent sites based on county density,
  • Manufacturers will have to pay for the recycling of any electronics collected at the sites and,
  • Any county could also choose four one-day drop offs instead of a permanent site.

The following are the number of sites per county:

One permanent site with counties with population density less than 250 people per square mile, 2 permanent sites with counties with population density between 250 and 500 per square mile, 3 permanent sites – density between 500 and 750 per square mile, 4 permanent sites – density between 750 and 1000, 5 permanent sites 1000 to 5000, up to 25 sites in Chicago/Cook County. This is a minimum number of sites and additional sites could be funded.

Environmental organizations, particularly Environmental Law and Policy Center and Environmental Defenders of McHenry County have had a deep interest in this bill. David McEllis and Al Grosboll of ELPC and I have participated in all of this spring’s negotiations and worked to protect environmental interests.  We have fought for the following:

  • Preservation of the entire existing landfill ban for all 17 electronic items.  This is in Amendment 2 of the final bill.
  • A role for NGOs or businesses to partner with a county to host drop off days or permanent sites.  While we did not get all that we asked for in this regard, the bill does contain language that specifies that counties may partner with NGOs or other entities to host a site.
  • During discussions, there was an effort to limit the covered electronic devices to five items including TVs, monitors, and computers.  We successfully fought to ensure all 17 devices currently covered would continue to be banned from landfills.
  • An original draft of SB 1417 did not include a sufficient number of sites for Cook County and Chicago. We succeeded in increasing the number of sites.
  • We asked for IEPA to provide a report on the location of collections held under the bill, which is included.  We’d like to use this report to ensure that there are recycling opportunities statewide.

We recognize that the switch from a weight based electronics recycling program to a convenience standard is a significant change, but we believe it has the potential to improve the current situation by giving residents more recycling opportunities.

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