Best Buy Ends Free Recycling of Televisions and Monitors

Last week, Best Buy announced that it would no longer be offering free recycling of televisions and monitors through its in-store collection program. The retailer is now charging a fee of $25 for each TV or monitor–whether they are flat screen or the older, bulky CRT monitors that contain leaded glass–in most states.

Best Buy Logo.svg

According to the announcement, in Illinois and Pennsylvania, “we are no longer recycling these particular products because of laws that prevent us from collecting fees to help run our program. All other products – such as batteries, ink cartridges, computers, printers and hundreds of other items – continue to be recycled for free at all of our stores.” However, there is an exception to this complete discontinuation of the company’s recycling service for these products in IL, as noted in the latest version of the Electronics Recycling Guide for Residents of or nearby Champaign, County, IL“If a Best Buy customer purchases a 55″ or larger TV from Best Buy and has it delivered to their home, then Best Buy will take back one TV for recycling. Or, a person may sign up at Best Buy’s home theater section, pay $100 for a television pick-up, and then Best Buy would arrange to pick-up and recycle a TV from a residence.” (Thanks to Susan Monte of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission and Courtney Kwong of the City of Urbana for this information. It should also be noted that the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission is also seeking approval and authorization of funds to host county electronics collection events in the spring. Decisions regarding such funding will be made later this month, and if county collection events are scheduled, information on those collections will be shared on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site.)


Best Buy has been a leader in offering electronics recycling for many years–it has collected more than a billion pounds of electronics and appliances since 2009. The company’s leadership will continue in terms of recycling other consumer electronics, but recycling is driven by commodity prices. Old cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors were surely a large part of the TV and monitor recycling stream coming into Best Buy stores, and since these monitors aren’t really manufactured any more, there’s less demand for the leaded glass they contain. This makes handling these hazardous materials a costly prospect for recyclers, and as time goes on, more and more recycling programs are ceasing the acceptance of monitors and TVs, or adding restrictions.


However, CRTs aren’t the only issue here, as Resa Dimino, Senior Advisor for the Product Stewardship Institute, pointed out in an opinion piece for Resource Recycling this week. Best Buy is charging for flat screens as well, so its clear that costs associated with recycling those types of devices are also proving too much for the retailer to continue to offer for free nationally. This counters the argument made by some that once the problematic CRTs have been cleared from the system, electronics related Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws that hold manufacturers responsible for safe and proper disposal of their products, will no  longer be needed as the value of other materials in the recycling stream covers the costs of collection and processing. Dimino further notes that EPR laws are only effective when they’re fair and equitable–flaws in current legislation allow some manufacturers to step back while a few manufacturers and retailers (like Best Buy) take up the slack, shouldering more than their fair share of financial responsibility for sustainable management of materials. Also, local governments cannot afford to pay for provision of electronics recycling to residents. All of this suggests, according to Scott Cassel of the Product Stewardship Institute, “it’s time to revisit the nation’s 25 state e-scrap laws to ensure that all manufacturers are equally responsible for electronics recycling.”


Barbara Kyle of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition suggested the following in her blog post on Best Buy’s recycling policy change: “The solution here would be for the manufacturers – particularly the TV companies – to visibly partner with Best Buy to cover some of the recycling costs, and to make sure that responsible recycling occurs. The TV companies, who are always challenged by finding collection sites, could take advantage of the chain’s huge network of stores, which are very convenient collection points for most consumers. This would be an ongoing national partnership program, in every state, in every store, co-marketed by the retailer and the industry. This could also be established with Walmart and their huge network of stores. While Amazon doesn’t have stores, there are many ways in which they could help to be part of the solution.”  Perhaps if there is pressure from consumers on electronics manufacturers and other big retailers, this sort of scenario could happen.


For more information on the stewardship of electronics and other consumer products in our state, see the Illinois Product Stewardship Council web site. Also see the IL EPA site for information on our current state electronics recycling law.

This post originally appeared on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative Blog

Sen. Durbin Backs Research to Capture More Carbon from Coal Plants


Senator Supports Plan to Capture More Carbon for Beneficial Use


Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) toured the Abbott Power Plant at the University of Illinois on Jan. 15 for a briefing on Prairie Research Institute (PRI) research to develop next-generation carbon capture technology.


PRI has just released an informative video introduction to the work underway at the Abbott Power Plant.


Durbin featured in project video

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin spoke about the carbon capture research following a tour of the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant.

The first-hand look at the project was an “eye opener,” Durbin said. If selected for the federally funded project, the technology would economically extract at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide following an Abbott Power Plant retrofit. The ramifications for coal-rich Illinois – for jobs, the economy, and keeping utility rates low – could be profound.


“What’s going on here at the Abbott Power Plant is an effort to show that there is an environmentally responsible way to deal with the sources of energy whether they’re coal, natural gas, or oil,” Durbin said after the tour. “We’re working with the university, and the power plant, on an application for a Department of Energy research effort; and their goal, of course, is to take even more of the emissions and turn the pollution into profits and make certain that it doesn’t at least harm the environment in serious ways.”


For many nations around the world where coal is likely to remain the fuel of choice well into this century, the new technology could be a game changer in the challenge to limit global warming. The project includes expert advisory panel representing some of the largest power producers around the world, including China, India, and Brazil, said Kevin O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and primary investigator for the project.


“We’re living in an era of dramatic change,” Durbin said. “Ten years ago we depended on OPEC oil. Now we’re talking very seriously about climate change and the need to reduce emissions.”


Senator Durbin was Supportive of the research on carbon captureHe praised the efforts at the University for keeping the more than 70-year-old plant at the forefront of efficient and effective technologies to deliver both steam and electric power to students and staff. “It still serves the campus today,” Durbin remarked. “The good news is that over the years there have been some dramatic efforts to modernize this plant and to make sure that it not only meets the standards but goes beyond, and sets the standard for new technology and new energy development.”


“So it was good to see this first hand today — to be educated. I will tell you that it came as an eye opener to me.  The steam generation and how important it is to the University of Illinois and also very important to generate the kind of electricity that sustains a modern campus in the 21st century.”


The project would put Abbott well beyond existing standards for emissions control. Abbott’s current pollution control technology, consisting of a combination of electrostatic precipitators and a flue gas desulfurization unit (scrubber), remains the “best available control technology” for removing pollutants from the byproducts of coal combustion.


The carbon capture research project also will look ahead to developing new uses for waste carbon dioxide. The project seeks partners interested in forming and building the overall “value chain” for captured CO2 – including members/ suppliers to the coal and power industry, and current and potential end-users of CO2. To learn more about the opportunity, call +1 (630) 472-5016.

Green Your Office, Join the Challenge

Illinois Green Office ChallengeRegistration is now open for the 2016 Illinois Green Office Challenge (IGOC), a friendly competition to see which Illinois organization can accumulate the most points by conserving energy and water, reducing waste, and saving money.


The competition will launch with a kickoff and informational session at 4:30 – 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25 at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), 1 Hazelwood Drive, Champaign.


Last year the Challenge began in the Central Illinois communities of Champaign-Urbana, Peoria, and Bloomington-Normal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering and Research Laboratory in Champaign was the highest scorer in the region. This year offices statewide are encouraged to sign up.


Contestants can start piling up points Tuesday, March 1, as they begin to score points for completing specific sustainability activities at their facilities.


Money-saving ideas and assistance will be provided by ISTC, a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

the challenge helps offices cut water, energy and waste

Workplaces primarily used for office space are encouraged to join the challenge to cut energy, water and waste.


The Challenge website provides participants with the information and tools they need to compete and complete activities, and a live leaderboard will track their scores, as well as those of other competitors from across the state. At the end of the Challenge, participants will be acknowledged for their hard work through media, peer recognition, and year-end awards. The Challenge welcomes all public and private buildings that are used primarily for office space.


There is an administrative fee of $50 for registration, but it can be waived if it is a barrier to participation. Questions can be directed to Bart Bartels:


A Peoria-area kickoff is scheduled for Thursday March 3. Additional community meetings and informational workshops will be scheduled as organizations and communities sign up. For complete information, visit the IGOC website at

ISTC Signs Call for Action to Limit Global Warming


The paris pledge for actionThe Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has become a signatory to The Paris Pledge for Action, a world-wide call to action to reduce environmental impacts and limit global warming to less than two degrees.


“Minimizing the impact of climate change will require global innovation and cooperation,” said Kevin O’Brien, director of ISTC at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI). “There is not one solution to this societal, governmental, and technological challenge,” he added, “there are as many as we can think of.”


COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, was the United Nation’s 21st climate conference in December, at which 196 nations recognized that climate change represents an “urgent and potentially irreversible threat to all human societies” requiring “deep reductions” in global greenhouse gas emissions.


The Paris Pledge for Action offers cities, businesses, investors, organizations and others everywhere to pledge to impact the goal of halting the rise in the average annual temperature on Earth. It is an initiative of the COP21 French Presidency (diplomatic host of the Conference) and the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.


The pledge also reads: We … realize that taking strong action to reduce emissions can not only reduce the risks of climate change but also deliver better growth and sustainable development.”


Researchers at PRI have partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy on its technology roadmap on two approaches to perfect systems that can remove a record proportion of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel energy (especially coal used to generate electricity). With a Phase I DOE grant the team is currently investigating the engineering requirements to install ground-breaking technology at the U of I’s Abbott Power Plant. A second grant is developing a unique bi-phasic solvent as an ultra-efficient carbon capture technique.


“Our mission includes research, technical assistance, and public information to help forge a more sustainable future,” O’Brien continued. “The new technology, and our partners, span three continents and some of the largest power generators in the world so that our findings can quickly have the greatest impact on our Pledge for Action.”


For more on the PRI research, visit and

New case study: 2014 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award Winner: City of Arcola

The City of Arcola worked with Tick Tock Energy to reduce the energy consumption associated with the operation of city facilities. They undertook several energy projects, which included:

  • Replacing incandescent and T12 lighting with CFLs and T8s in the fire department and community center buildings;
  • Upgrading the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) aeration blowers with more energy efficient replacements;
  • Powering the WWTP with wind energy;
  • Installing a solar array at City Hall.

These projects reduced greenhouse gas emissions and resulted in $25,554 annual savings for taxpayers.


Read the full case study here.

New case study: Replacing Solvent with Aqueous Detergent at a Small Metal Fabricator

ISTC’s technical assistance engineers worked with a small metal fabricating company to change from a solvent based parts cleaning process to a water-based alternative.


The change resulted in the elimination of 29 drums of solvent (1,600 gallons); reduced VOC and greenhouse gas emissions; and annual cost savings of $5,000 with a one year payback. It also reduces employee exposure to hazardous materials and cleans the parts more effectively.


Read the entire case study here.

Obama Bans Microbeads

tooth paste being squeezed out onto a tooth brush. the tooth paste has red microbeads in the white paste.On January 4, 2016, President Obama signed into law a bill that bans production and sale of microbeads in certain products. This national law comes only a year and a half after Illinois became the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads in June 2014 (Public Act 098-0638). Microbeads are small bits of plastic added to soaps, creams, and even toothpaste for aesthetics and abrasion. These are the important dates for the “Microbead-Free Water Act of 2015”:

  • July 2017 – manufacture of rinse-off cosmetics containing microbeads is banned
  • July 2018 – manufacture of over-the-counter drugs with microbeads is banned and selling rinse-off cosmetics with microbeads is banned
  • July 2019 – selling over-the-counter drugs with microbeads is banned

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8 Easy Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year 2016 over colored fireworks


Aah….the New Year’s resolution. Whether it was exercising, dieting, crafting, getting out doors, or cleaning more frequently, it always seems that life took over and I was back to doing the bare minimum just to make it through the week. So when I decided to write a blog on sustainable New Year’s resolutions, I thought, “Oh boy!” there are so many great sustainable things to do like growing your own food in your back yard with your own compost or installing renewable energy sources on your property to get totally off the grid. But then I had to stop myself because here I was again setting New Year’s resolutions that were too ambitious for my current life style. So let’s start with the basics. Here are eight easy sustainable New Year’s resolutions that just about anyone could incorporate into their daily routine. Don’t worry about them all; just pick your favorite one and give it a try this year!

10 different colored and shaped reusable beverage containers

  1. Reusable beverage containers – Many places have rewards programs when you buy their reusable beverage containers and they often come in stylish patterns that can set you apart from the average mobile drinker. In addition, reusable water bottles come in all sizes, shapes, and styles these days and a one-time investment in a reusable water bottle can provide you with free water for the rest of your life because nearly every place has a drinking fountain or sink where water bottles can be filled. (And by the way, there are more safety regulations on tap water than bottled water, making it a better choice in most instances as well as saving money.)
  2. Eating in season – We all have to go to the store to get food (unless we have a large garden) but instead of just getting the usual stuff, think about what food is in season and was grown locally. By shopping for in season and local produced food, you can make a big dent in your carbon footprint because the food wasn’t shipped from all over the world.
  3. multi colored reusable bags. one is open and four are folded on top of the open bagReusable shopping bags – Avoid having to choose between paper or plastic and which one might be better for carrying different items vs. their environmental impact by investing in reusable shopping bags. Usually they fold up into small bundles and can be left in the car so you will never forget them when you are at the store.
  4. Drive less – In the city, many have embraced public transportation as a great way to move around quickly and avoid pollution from driving their own vehicles. But that often doesn’t work for most small cities and rural communities. Consider working from home and/or teleconferencing a couple days a week if your work allows. Or check with people in your neighborhood or at your work to see if you can set up a carpool. Also, combining errands by location and day can reduce your carbon footprint and time spent driving around town.
  5. Sustainable laundry – Some articles of clothing don’t need to be washed as often as we might think. For example, a student-professor team at the University of Alberta found that new jeans could be worn and not washed for 15 months without affecting a person’s health (see article on not washing jeans). In addition, consider the natural drying power of a clothes line either in the back yard, basement, or spare room to avoid using electrical or gas power for drying.
  6. Reduce, reuse, recycle – Reducing waste is the number one way to be more sustainable and have a zero waste life style. If you buy individual servings, consider buying a bulk container to reduce packaging or think of another use for the individual serving containers. If you find that you aren’t using something as much as you have in the past, think about cutting that item off your shopping list.
  7. Donate Don't Dump - the word donate and the word dump are spelled out using donatable items like computer keybord, mirror, clock, cloths, dishes, toys, lamps, umbrellas, and musical instramentsDonating old stuff – With the New Year comes Spring Cleaning. Don’t just toss out all that junk and old clothes; many reuse stores such as Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity will take all sorts of items from small appliances, furniture, silverware, to clothes, decorations, and games. This way you can keep stuff out of the landfill and get a tax benefit and/or the pleasure of giving items which others can use!
  8. Energy efficiency – Throw on an extra sweater this winter and keep the thermostat down to reduce energy consumption and save money on your bill! Also, when a light bulb burns out, try replacing it with an LED bulb. The LEDs are a little pricier but they last longer and use so much less energy than conventional bulbs that the investment is worth it in the end. LEDs have conventional watt bulb comparisons on their box as well as a cool-warm light emission rating, so if you like the warm glow of traditional bulbs you can get the same look with an LED.


For the more ambitious sustainability enthusiast or if you just want to check out some cool stuff:


Sources & Ideas


Companies and products mentioned in this blog are not an endorsement but merely discussed as an example.

Ten: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Video

30thBlogThing10Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 10: Mark Ryan After leading the assembly in “Happy Birthday” to ISTC, Ryan shared a brief survey of the history of “sustainability in the modern context.” In 1980, sustainable development was called a global priority in “World Conservation Strategy” published by the International Union for of Conservation of Nature.


The United Nation’s Bruntland Commission defined it in 1987: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”


But sustainability in the sense of natural resources goes back thousands of years to so many cultures across the globe that Ryan said he was comfortable labeling it a “universal truth.”


For examples in ancient times he cited, “Deuteronomy’s” caution not to kill female birds with young, forest management practiced in the Han Dynasty, and the Roman latifundium which managed the production of wood and other crops. Ryan noted that when Rome fell, and latifundia disappeared, so did many of the forests in Italy and France.


Ryan continued to offer examples of preserving resources for future use through the centuries, right up to the establishment of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center in 1985.


ALL VIDEOS and other ISTC 30th Anniversary information is available at this ISTC web page.

Nine: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Celebration Videos

30thBlogThing2Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 9: State Senator Scott Bennett’s presentation gave insights on how policies work their way through the state legislature. For 10 years politics, policy and science questions surrounded a proposal to store PCBs and manufactured gas plant waste in a DeWitt County landfill positioned over the Mohamet Aquifer.


He has been active in promoting legislation to protect the aquifer, which is a critical source of drinking water for a large region of central Illinois. Another pending bill to protect the state’s natural infrastructure is a comprehensive program to monitor the quality of air, water, and land resources. Also, a proposed law would allow cities to collect fees from power plants to prepare for the costs of environmental cleanup when the plant eventually closes down.


NEXT UP: Mark Ryan, PRI executive director, “A Brief History of Sustainability.”