New Illinois law bans trashing old electronics

December 27, 2011 (CHICAGO)

As the clock strikes midnight on January 1, more than 200 new laws will go into effect in Illinois. According to the state's new and improved electronic Recycling and Reuse Act, it will be illegal to throw out more than 13 electronic products.

Getting rid of old computers, and associated pieces and parts, in a fashion that's friendly to the environment is not a new idea or practice in Illinois, but it does now have the force of law. The law is not meant so much to punish as it is to make the best use possible of our voluminous electronic waste.

So, you've retired the computer. The printer is kaput. You don't like the feel of the old keyboard. You're going Blu-ray on the new DVD. Just don't put the old gear out with the trash, or your hauler may tell you that's a no-no.

"They're gonna flag it," said the Illinois Recycling Association's Mike Mitchell. "There will be a red flag on it. You can't take this anymore and dispose of it, and people are gonna say, 'Oh, I didn't know that."

Come Monday, it is no longer legal to put the laptop in the landfill -- or for that matter, over a dozen other items, from mouses to portable digital music players, part of an expanded list of electronics banned from the dump by new Illinois law.

"When you're gonna get rid of this stuff, now it's good to think about well where am I gonna take it," said Willie Cade.

Cade runs PC Rebuilders and Recyclers. He has a big warehouse filled with used electronics, some of it having thrived in another age, but a great deal of it can and is refurbished with newer components to be used again.

"Much of the equipment we get here has been used less than 500 hours," said Cade.

What can't be reborn electronically -- here and at many other recyclers -- is stripped apart. Metals -- like gold, silver, copper, platinum -- are separated out and reused. They have little value in a landfill.

"These are valuable materials," Mitchell said. "It's not garbage or waste. Just because you're done with it doesn't mean it has no value."

For the last decade or so, dozens of electronic recycling or drop-off stations have sprung up, many run by government agencies. The new law means more will be coming.

The law does not provide for garbage police who will check your trash for old iPods. But, if you do that and get caught, the law calls for a first-time $25 fine.

"It's not about you getting a ticket for throwing a computer in the trash, it's about you doing the right thing," said Mitchell.

The law also contains requirements for electronics manufacturers. They must collect a volume of electronic waste that is proportionate to what they sell. It is called "extended producer responsibility." If they don't meet the requirement, they have to pay more.

So, from that, come programs that are to make it as convenient as possible for consumers to properly dispose of their old electronic gear.

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