Electronics recycling is the law – and the right choice for our planet

Elgin Recycling electronics manager Marco Valdez runs computer hard drives through an industrial shredder at the company's electronics recycling processing facility in West Dundee. Paul Valade | The Daily Herald

Whether you are cleaning out your basement or trying to downsize, getting rid of old stuff can be a hassle. But with outdated TVs, cellphones and computers, tossing them in the trash is never a good option.

As environmental reporter Jenny Whidden shared recently, it is illegal to throw away laptops, printers and other electronics gathering dust in your home.

Illinois is one of 25 states with electronic recycling laws. Our law, updated in 2017, established a system for recycling and reusing unwanted electronics – and requires manufacturers to share in the financial responsibility of properly disposing of the products they create.

Devices covered under the program include computers, computer monitors, electronic keyboards and mice, printers, fax machines, DVD players, cable receivers and video game consoles. These gadgets that we rely on for entertainment, communication and so much more are full of toxic components – including lead, cadmium and arsenic – that have no place in landfills.

Mary Allen, the recycling and education director at the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, told Whidden that recycling electronics should come down to conservation and environmental health. In other words, we save and reuse what parts we can – and safely get rid of what we can’t.

“The metals and the glass both have recoverability as well as potential toxicity – for the heavy metals, for the mercury, for the cadmium in some of the old TVs and monitors,” Allen said. “It’s important from an environmental standpoint to try and recover what we can and certainly to do safe disposal or recycling of the components that can harm our land, air or water.”

So what do you do with that old TV set or now-useless game system?

You can check your town to see if curbside pickup is an option or seek drop-off sites. See these links for assistance:

• Cook County: tinyurl.com/CookElectronics

• DeKalb County: tinyurl.com/DeKalbElectronics

• DuPage County: tinyurl.com/DuPageElectronics

• Kane County: tinyurl.com/Kane-Electronics

• Lake County: tinyurl.com/LakeElectronics

• La Salle County: tinyurl.com/LaSalleElectronics

• Lee County: https://tinyurl.com/decrwsf7

• McHenry County: tinyurl.com/McHenryElectronics

• Will County: tinyurl.com/WillElectronics

We know that proper disposal can add time and inconvenience to clearing clutter, an already draining, difficult and occasionally emotional process. But it boils down to what’s best for our planet and the people we love.

No one wants the products we’ve enjoyed in the past to become a problem for our children in the future.

The Daily Herald