By Paul Ploumis (ScrapMonster Author)
February 19, 2016 07:31:03 PM
CHICAGO (Scrap Monster): The village of Mokena will close its electronic recycling center Feb. 29 as Will County struggles to rebuild its program that had as many as 13 drop off sites last year.
Amid drastic changes in the recycling business, the county was forced to change the company that picked up discarded electronic items at all its locations, and in Thursday's board meeting, awarded a bid to Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), for $202,900 to pick up recyclables from its remaining centers. It's the first time the county has had to pay for its recycling program. Its long-time recycling partner, Vintage Tech, of Plainfield, broke its contract, saying it could no longer make a profit.
The California-based ERI is requiring the centers to do more of the labor, in an effort to keep the costs down, and Mokena Public Works Supt. Lou Tiberi said the added work is "way too much for us to handle."
Mokena's site, at its public works garage at 190th and Wolf Road, was one of the county's largest sites, taking in 700,000 pounds of discarded electronics per year, he said. If there are only a couple of collection sites operating, that number could double, he said.
New Lenox Township shut its site Feb. 1 and Homer Glen closed in 2015.
"We would be inundated and couldn't handle it," Tiberi said. Since his site had 24-hour access, he had people coming from Cook County to drop off truckloads of TVs. The village may be willing to host a one-day collection event, he said.
The new recycling firm is requiring the sites to sort, stack, and wrap the electronics onto pallets and have a fork lift available to load the materials onto a semi-trailer.
The two sites that remain open as of now are in Lockport Township and the village of Bolingbrook.
Marta Keane, program director with the county's Resource Recovery and Energy Division, said Bolingbrook is "weighing its options," and Troy Township, which plans to close Feb. 27, is "reconsidering."
She said the county is back to where it was in 2007 when it was one of the first to launch an electronics recycling program with four drop off sites – five years before the state banned electronics from landfills.
"Things are falling apart but that doesn't mean we cannot rebuild," she said.
To encourage other entities to become recycling drop off centers, she said the county may enforce restrictions -- such as limiting hours of operations, requiring proof of Will County residency, and limiting the number of discarded televisions to two per person.
Keanie also plans to work with legislators in Springfield to change the law. Legislation passed in 2015 made it illegal to charge units of local government that acted as collection sites for supplies, transportation and recycling costs, but there was no provision for the staff time related to collection work.
Manufacturers are required to pay to recycle 70 percent of the weight of the items they sell, but once they meet that goal, the cost falls to recycling companies. Further complicating that, is that the cost of metals and plastics has dropped dramatically, forcing many recyclers out of business.
In previous committee meetings, board member Steve Balich suggested that manufacturers collect a specific fee for recycling at the time of purchase and dedicate those funds for recycling electronics. It would be similar to the disposal fees consumers now pay when they purchase tires or change the oil on their vehicles, he said.
"I have high hopes something will come out of Springfield, and higher hopes that we can rebuild," Keane said.