PEORIA — A new state law regulating the recycling of electronic devices has already taken effect, but it's still not quite time to wrestle that big-screen television set into the back seat and haul it away.
The Consumer Electronics Recycling Act, signed into law in Illinois last August, authorized free collection sites across the state for common electronic equipment that has been barred from landfills since 2012, but it could be spring or later before sites are actually established in individual counties.
In Peoria County, the wait will be even longer — at least another year. According to county recycling director Karen Raithel, current plans for 2019 do not include establishment of a permanent drop-off site for regulated electronics.
"I do not have plans to establish a site this year. Residents can still use (local recycling services). I will be planning one-day events later this summer and fall," Raithel said, referring to free collection days similar to ones the county has provided in the past.
The elephant in the room when it comes to electronics recycling is the ubiquitous CRT — the outdated cathode ray tube in televisions and computer monitors that people have stashed in basements or garages with few free options for disposal of the devices. An estimated 700 million CRT TVs were sold in this country since 1980, and more than 70 million of the old TVs are still stored away in American homes, according to electronics industry estimates.
Since landfills in Illinois stopped taking them in 2012, it's become increasingly difficult to get rid of the old equipment. Stores such as Best Buy once accepted used TV sets but halted the practice in 2016. Kuusakoski Recycling, 2022 W. Townline Road, now the only area collection site accepting television sets for recycling, charges for each set received.
There's a reason that electronics aren't wanted in landfills across the country. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost 2.4 million tons of electronics were disposed of in 2009. Of that amount, only 25 percent was recycled.
Electronic scrap can contain potentially harmful components such as lead, cadmium, beryllium or flame retardants, and mercury and arsenic can also be present, according to the Electronics Takeback Coalition.
To prevent harmful materials from leaching into the soil, many states have placed restrictions on the disposal of electronics waste.
"I think Illinois will have challenges to pull off what it wants to do with electronic waste," said Don Johnson, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois.
The Goodwill head applauds state efforts to seek a solution to the electronics waste problem but wants to see how the new law plays out. For one thing, he doesn't want to see it restrict his agency's present recycling program.
"Goodwill already has an electronic recycling program at over 2,000 locations across the country," said Johnson, referring to a partnership with Dell Technologies that has been active since 2004.
"We collect a wide variety of computer equipment in our program, but we don't accept TVs. We don't take TVs at the door, but people leave them at collection sites after hours," he said.
That's created a problem for the agency.
"We have enough television sets to fill a whole truckload now sitting in one of our warehouses," Johnson said. "Kuusakoski used to take them off our hands, but no longer. The question is: What do we do with them?"
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has established three recycling categories: collector, recycler and refurbisher.
"Goodwill is a collector. We don't dismantle the equipment but bundle it up and send it off to Dell," said Johnson.
The recycler is defined as an entity where equipment is dismantled and retains the parts, while a refurbisher processes the material for reuse. The state is charging an annual $3,000 license fee for the classification of a recycler or refurbisher, Johnson said.
"(The new program) could be a good thing for us, but I don't want it to interfere with our program with Dell," said Johnson.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or email@example.com. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.