Illinois is poised to have one of the highest electronic waste recycling goals in the country thanks to recently passed legislation that ratchets up the state’s current law.
The bill, now on its way to Governor Pat Quinn’s desk, boosts Illinois’s state-wide e-cycling goal to 60 million pounds by 2013, or about 5.2 pounds per person, more than double the 2011 goal established by the original program.
The new measure also covers 17 types of electronic devices (up from four), and demands that manufacturers recycle a greater volume of products, as much as 50 percent by weight of their products sold in state by 2013.
If the program succeeds, it represents a huge turnaround for electronics recycling in Illinois, which scores among the lowest performing states with e-cycling laws, according to the Campaign for Recycling. Illinois recycled 1.42 pounds of electronics per person in 2010 (the goal was a modest 2.5 pounds), bested only by Texas (.98 pounds), which relies on manufacturers to voluntarily comply.
That’s not entirely fair, said Mel Nickerson of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, who helped author the amendments to Illinois’s e-cycling act and advocated for the original 2008 law.
“Illinois has several incentives to ensure recycling statewide,” he explained. “The vast majority of counties are considered underserved, so manufacturers get 2-for-1 credit by weight for recycling in certain counties. We think that’s a good tradeoff [for lower numbers].”
Additional incentives include a 3-to-1 credit for donating refurbished electronics and a 2-for-1 credit for refurbishing them alone, all geared toward the larger goal: keeping toxins and recoverable metals found in electronics out of the waste stream.
Propelling the legislation in part is a state-wide ban on disposing e-waste in landfills that takes effect in 2012.
“In order to have a decent recycling program you can’t allow people to throw things in the garbage, there are some people who will do it because it’s the right thing to do, but many won’t unless it’s required,” Nickerson said
“It’s a major paradigm shift that’s begun and will shift to other producers,” Nickerson added. “It’s fantastic to require manufacturers to deal with the end life of their products’ pollution in advance.”
On the whole, manufactures argue for national e-cycling standards, rather than state-by-state piecemeal laws, though they posed few challenges to the Illinois amendments.
Recyclers and downstream processors such as Chicago Heights-based Intercon Solutions would prefer to see national standards, too, but for a different reason: federal regulation would level the playing field in a rapidly growing business.
Intercon, however, still champions the new measure.
“We’re going to support any legislation to keep electronics out of landfills. It’s nothing but good for us,” said Dan Hagan, the company’s senior sustainability consultant. “It will show residents that there’s a genuine concern for recycling the proper way,”
Meanwhile for consumers, the program will remain relatively the same – access to free and easy electronics recycling in every county – though consumers can expect more robust, better-publicized collection as manufacturers work to comply with state goals.
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