By Paul Ploumis (ScrapMonster Author)
March 04, 2016 09:52:52 PM
CHICAGO (Scrap Monster): The five remaining free electronics drop-off sites in Lake County are scheduled to close May 1 after action Thursday by the agency that oversees them.
Leadership of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County say it is not a doomsday scenario at this point, but barring changes in state law, the stage is set for the collection sites to be mothballed.
"Unless something changes, it's going to happen, but we're still hopeful," said Walter Willis, executive director.
The agency's board, which represents most communities in the county, voted 26-1 at an emergency meeting not to accept a $62,400 contract proposal for recycling, which amounted to a discontinuation of service. Waukegan was the lone dissenter, fearing an increase in illegal dumping.
The waste agency spent $230,000 of its reserves last year to keep the program going, and that doesn't include in-kind services, officials said.
"The agency was faced with an unanticipated mandate to pay for collecting electronics, and regrettably we cannot afford to pay more when we are already providing nearly $150,000 per year in manpower and equipment at the five collection sites," Larry Mount, agency chairman and a Round Lake Beach village trustee, said in a statement Friday.
Electronics have been banned from landfills in Illinois since Jan. 1, 2012, and state law requires manufacturers to pay recycling costs for a set weight of products. But those who operate the drop-off sites say the standard, based on weight of products sold two years ago, isn't high enough to account for heavy, old TVs that represent about two-thirds of the weight of what consumers get rid of at the sites.
Weight limits are being met before the scheduled end of contracts providers like the solid waste agency have with recycling companies to deal with material. That means either the recycling companies or the provider must pay to continue the service, a situation that has led to many programs throughout the suburbs being discontinued.
But discussions began this week in Springfield among a range of stakeholders, including units of local governments, manufacturers, recycling companies, lawmakers and other interests to address changes in the law suggested by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
"I think everybody understands there is a problem," Willis said. "We're losing sites and the public is taking the brunt of it."
As it stands, collection sites in Waukegan, Highland Park, Grayslake, and Grant and Cuba townships are available.
The Grayslake drop-off site was busy Friday afternoon.
"As soon as my wife saw it (notice of pending closing) she said, 'We better get down there,'" said Stephen Evans of Vernon Hills as he dropped off a TV.
Leo Ladurini of Libertyville was unloading a laptop and other items.
"I really like what SWALCO does over the years," he said. "I really think there should be money for this."
Willis said the idea of proposed changes is to ensure better access to electronics collection programs and address the lack of funding to pay for the recycling.
"It is our goal to work with the other stakeholders, including the electronics manufacturers and recyclers, to develop a more sustainable program so that our residents are able to comply with the law, which currently bans 18 items from the landfill, including TVs," he said.
Lake County's waste agency will continue to evaluate options to keep the programs running after May 1, but at this point there are none that don't involve significant costs, he said.
Lake County Board member Steve Mandel, who represents the county on the waste agency board, urged residents to contact state lawmakers.
"State legislators have to step up to the plate," he said. "We have to get this hammered out and we have to do it soon."