Registration Open for May 2017 Champaign County Electronics Recycling Event

Registration is now open for residents that would like to participate in the upcoming Champaign County Electronics Collection event on May 20, 2017. See complete details, along with suggestions for how to recycle and reuse electronics throughout the year, in my post on the ISTC Blog at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/blog/2017/04/03/registration-open-for-champaign-co-electronics-recycling-event/.

recycling symbol on computer key

ERCC Publishes Report on Consumer Awareness of Electronics Recycling Programs

ERCC logoThe Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) published a report on March 15, 2016 entitled “ERCC Consumer Awareness Survey: A Look at How Electronics Recycling Programs Have Impacted E-Cycling Activities And Awareness.”  According to the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), this is “the first study comparing state-level consumer awareness levels of electronics recycling programs as well as other important consumer preferences. Previous surveys of consumer awareness on electronics recycling have focused on a nationwide rate or within a single state. ERCC undertook the surveys in order to establish an additional measure of performance for electronics recycling programs, and to compare rates of awareness of electronics recycling options among states as well as ask other important questions. After developing a survey script with 10 standard questions on awareness, collection preference, barriers to recycling and other topics, ERCC surveyed member states who stepped forward to fund their survey costs, as well as other member and non-member states made possible by affiliate member contributions. In all, ERCC surveyed 6 states WITHOUT electronics recycling laws and 6 states WITH electronics recycling laws at varying levels of confidence. To carry out the surveys, ERCC contracted with Service 800, a company with 20 years of experience in the design and execution of customer satisfaction measurement surveys.”

States participating which do have electronics recycling legislation included Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Texas. Participating states without such legislation included Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

The executive summary of the report states:

“As of late 2015, there are 25 states with laws on electronics recycling, and most have had multiple years of implementation. As the programs mature, many stakeholders are wanting a better understanding of measures of performance that goes beyond the current knowledge of “pounds collected” or “number of collection sites”. One desired measure of performance is the level of awareness of electronics recycling programs among consumers for whom the services are available. Prior to this study, a handful of states and one national organization measured awareness rates, but none had done so to compare rates among different states. The goal of the consumer awareness surveys featured in this report was to do just that.

The Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) conducted surveys of consumers in states where the state agency expressed an interest and was able to fund a survey. In addition, ERCC received contributions and surveyed an additional number of states (both with laws and without). The goal was to increase the number of state-level results and to gauge any difference in awareness and attitudes between states with and without laws, and also to get a general understanding overall awareness and other factors in increasing electronics recycling.

Survey results indicate that there does not appear to be a significant difference in awareness of recycling options when comparing states that have laws versus those that don’t. 40.7% of those surveyed across LAW STATES and NON-LAW STATES are CERTAIN they know where to recycle their electronics. Adding in those who “THINK THEY KNOW” where to take their used electronics, the national result is just over 70% awareness. The state with the highest combined response of “Yes, I know where” to recycle and “I think I know where” to recycle was Oregon at 79.7%. The lowest was Wyoming at 62.4%.

It is important to note the limitations to this survey – approximately 83% of the responses were from individuals in states that have laws. All of the non-law states were conducted at lower levels of confidence due to funding limitations, but they do give insights that were previously unavailable. Taken as a whole, the surveys conducted give us a baseline for comparing future awareness level results as programs become more widespread (or potentially contract), and key pieces of data on how consumers seek out and participate in electronics recycling programs across the country. One other limitation worth mentioning is that awareness and convenience have very distinct differences. A person may know they can recycle a computer 150 miles away, but that may not be a convenient location for them. Convenience (or accessibility) is key in determining whether a resident will recycle 3/15/2016 ERCC CONSUMER AWARENESS SURVEY 2 their electronics. In some states, the law specifically spells out how many recycling drop-off locations there must be for electronics in various counties. In other states, this is not something that is spelled out in the law at all. Furthermore, when looking at states without laws, there are no laws of convenience for electronics recycling. It is up to the consumer to source out a location in order to recycle. That location may or may not be convenient. Does this have an impact on recycling rates across the states? This may be something worth looking at in a future survey – whether or not convenience (distance from the closest collection site) effects recycling rates.”

To read the full report, go to http://www.electronicsrecycling.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ERCC-Consumer-Awareness-Survey-Summary-Report-FINAL.pdf. This link is included with the SEI Resource Complilations.

Best Buy Ends Free Recycling of Televisions and Monitors

Best Buy Logo.svgLast 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.

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.

Reminder: Manuscripts for Special Edition of Challenges Due 12/31/15

challenges-logoManuscripts are still being accepted for the special issue of the journal Challenges, entitled “Electronic Waste–Impact, Policy and Green Design.” 

From the issue’s rationale:

“Electronics are at the heart of an economic system that has brought many out of poverty and enhanced quality of life. In Western society in particular, our livelihoods, health, safety, and well being are positively impacted by electronics. However, there is growing evidence that our disposal of electronics is causing irreparable damage to the planet and to human health, as well as fueling social conflict and violence.

While global demand for these modern gadgets is increasing, policy to handle the increased volumes of electronic waste has not kept pace. International policy governing safe transfer, disposal, reclamation, and reuse of electronic waste is nonexistent or woefully lacking. Where laws do exist about exporting and importing hazardous waste, they are routinely circumvented and enforcement is spotty at best. While European Union countries lead the way in responsible recycling of electronic and electrical devices under various EU directives, most industrialized nations do not have such policies. In the U.S., for example, most electronic waste is still discarded in landfills or ground up for scrap.

It is imperative that we consider how green design practices can address the growing electronic waste problem. This special issue is meant to do just that and spur discussions on how electronic products can become greener and more sustainable.”

If you are interested in submitting a paper for this special issue, please send a title and short abstract (about 100 words) to the Challenges Editorial Office at challenges@mdpi.com, indicating the special issue for which it is to be considered. If the proposal is considered appropriate for the issue, you will be asked to submit a full paper. Complete instructions for authors and an online submission form for the completed manuscripts are available on the Challenges web site at http://www.mdpi.com/journal/challenges/special_issues/electronic-waste#info. The deadline for manuscript submissions is December 31, 2015. Questions may be addressed to co-guest editor Joy Scrogum.

New on the SEI Website: Spring 2015

Check out the following updates and resources added this spring on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site. If you have any questions, or would like to make suggestions for additions to the SEI site, please contact Joy Scrogum. Don’t forget to subscribe to the SEI Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay current with sustainable electronics issues!

New “Lessons” Page:

We’ve added a “Lessons” page to the “Education” section of our site for interactive lessons on various sustainable electronics topics. Check out “The Secret Life of Electronics” to explore some of the environmental and social impacts of electronic products.

SEI Publications:

Teaching Sustainability with Electronics. January 2015.

Updates to Law & Policy pages:

A link to the controversial Executive Order 13693 (Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade) has been added to the U.S. Federal Legislation page. Effective March 19, 2015, this executive order is notable in its lack of any mention of the EPEAT registry tied to federal procurement preferences. For nearly a decade prior, 95% of electronics purchased by federal agencies were required to be EPEAT registered. The omission was met with criticism and concern from environmental and sustainability advocates, but the Green Electronics Council, which administers the EPEAT registry, has expressed confidence that federal agencies will continue to use the registry as a purchasing tool, since doing so is not precluded by the new executive order. UPDATE, 6/18/15: Implementation instructions for this Executive Order, dated June 10, 2015, make it clear that EPEAT is the only existing tool to achieve the electronic stewardship mandates of the order. This allays the fears of those who thought the omission of direct mention of EPEAT in the order would lead to weakening or failure as a tool for environmentally preferable purchasing. For more information, see the Resource Recycling article Federal government sticks with EPEAT after all.

A link to IL HB 1455 was added under “Pending State & Local Legislation” on the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. This bill has passed the state House and Senate and is awaiting the signature of Governor Bruce Rauner. Synopsis As Introduced: “Amends the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act. Provides that a manufacturer may count the total weight of a cathode ray tube device, prior to processing, towards its goal under this Section if all recyclable components are removed from the device and the cathode ray tube glass is managed in a manner that complies with all Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regulations for handling, treatment, and disposition of cathode ray tubes. Provides that, for specified categories of electronic devices, each manufacturer shall recycle or reuse at least 80% (was at least 50%) of the total weight of the electronic devices that the manufacturer sold in that category in Illinois during the calendar year 2 years before the applicable program year. Provides that a registered recycler or a refurbisher of CEDs and EEDs for a manufacturer obligated to meet goals may not charge individual consumers or units of local government acting as collectors a fee to recycle or refurbish CEDs and EEDs, unless the recycler or refurbisher provides (i) a financial incentive, such as a coupon, that is of greater or equal value to the fee being charged or (ii) premium service, such as curbside collection, home pick-up, drop-off locations, or a similar methods of collection. Provides that, in program year 2015, and each year thereafter, if the total weight of CEDs and EEDs recycled or processed for reuse by the manufacturer is less than 100% of the manufacturer’s individual recycling or reuse goal set forth in a specified provision of the Act, the manufacturer shall pay a penalty equal to the product of (i) $0.70 per pound; multiplied by (ii) the difference between the manufacturer’s individual recycling or reuse goal and the total weight of CEDs and EEDs recycled or processed for reuse by the manufacturer during the program year. Effective immediately.”

A link to the text of the Minnesota bill HF 1412 was also added under “Pending State & Local Legislation” on the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. This bill, introduced by Rep. Frank Hornstein on March 4, 2015, would change the determination of e-scrap collection requirements for manufacturers. Currently, manufacturers fund the MN electronics recycling program with contributions based on volume of equipment sold in the state annually. According to the Product Stewardship Institute, the new bill would ‘change the state’s reuse and recycling goals every year in response to changing weights and quantities of electronic products sold and recycled. [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] will publish a new recycling goal each year based on the sum of the average weight of the electronic devices collected for recycling in the preceding two years.’ The bill additionally proposes to broaden the state’s electronics disposal ban, which currently only bans CRTs from landfills. If passed, the amended disposal ban would include products such as cellphones, video game consoles and computers and computer peripherals.

A few of the new items in the SEI Resource Compilations. (Items are added all the time, so check the web site often.):

Redefining scope: the true environmental impact of smartphones: The aim of this study is to explore the literature surrounding the environmental impact of mobile phones and the implications of moving from the current business model of selling, using and discarding phones to a product service system based upon a cloud service. The exploration of the impacts relating to this shift and subsequent change in scope is explored in relation to the life cycle profile of a typical smartphone.

MeterHero: MeterHero is a sustainability exchange where you can offset your water and energy use by purchasing savings from local homes, schools, and buildings. People who conserve earn income and help save the planet. The MeterHero dashboard allows users to track their water, electric and gas usage, and money earned by reducing usage.

Carbon Nanotubes in Electronics: Background and Discussion for Waste-Handling Strategies: Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are increasingly being used in electronics products. CNTs have unique chemical and nanotoxicological properties, which are potentially dangerous to public health and the environment. This report presents the most recent findings of CNTs’ toxicity and discusses aspects related to incineration, recycling and potential remediation strategies including chemical and biological remediation possibilities. Our analysis shows that recycling CNTs may be challenging given their physiochemical properties and that available strategies such as power-gasification methods, biological degradation and chemical degradation may need to be combined with pre-handling routines for hazardous materials. The discussion provides the background knowledge for legislative measures concerning specialized waste handling and recycling procedures/facilities for electronics products containing CNTs.

Precarious Promise: A Case Study of Engineered Carbon NanotubesIn just over two decades since the discovery of carbon nanotubes, technologies relying on engineered CNTs have developed at warp speed. Current and anticipated uses of engineered CNTs are numerous and diverse: sporting equipment, solar cells, wind turbines, disk drives, batteries, antifouling paints for boats, flame retardants, life-saving medical devices, drug delivery technologies, and many more. Some have suggested that every  feature of life as we know it is or will be impacted by the discovery and use of CNTs. Despite uncertainty about how these entirely new materials may affect living systems, CNTs have largely been a case of “forget precaution, get to production.” Concern for human health and the environment has been overwhelmed by the promise of profits and progress. Financial support for nanomaterial research and commercial development has vastly outpaced funding of environmental health and safety and sustainable design research on these materials. And with limited understanding of how these structures — small enough to penetrate cells — will interact with humans and other life forms, use of CNTs is proliferating with few systems in place to protect people or the environment. Warning signs have emerged, however. CNTs share important physical characteristics with ultrafine air pollution particles as well as with asbestos fibers — both recognized as seriously toxic. Mounting numbers of toxicological studies now demonstrate irreversible health effects in laboratory animals, but it is unclear whether similar effects have occurred in humans exposed at work or through environmental releases. The growing literature on toxic effects of CNTs also make clear that the environmental and human health impacts may vary radically, depending on specific chemical and physical characteristics of the engineered nanomaterial. While some CNTs appear to be highly hazardous, it remains possible that others may pose little threat. Is it possible to gain the benefits of CNTs with minimal risk by ensuring the use of the safest alternatives for a particular application?  (PDF Format; Length: 36 pages)

 

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.

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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 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.

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 http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/95/SB/PDF/09500SB2313lv.pdf.

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 http://uiuc.libguides.com/battery-recycling/cu.

For fluorescent lamps and CFLs, see the City of Urbana”Where Do I Recycle It?” page at http://urbanaillinois.us/residents/recycling-program-u-cycle/where-do-i-take-it and the City of Champaign Recycling guide at http://ci.champaign.il.us/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Recycle-guide.pdf. 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 http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=1299692&tag=1 and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652611000801 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.