Dollars and Sense By Fred Paul
In 2012, the Illinois Legislature mandated that electronic items such as TV’s, computers, small home appliances, phones, etc. would no longer be accepted at landfills and would need to be recycled.
While this may be a worthy goal, no convenient or efficient way to collect these items was established, so it fell upon local government to come up with a solution.
At first, e-recyclers were happy to accept these items at no charge. The City established its current program where these items could be dropped off at the Public Works facility, 100 W. Palmer from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at no cost to our residents.
However, as time passed, it became apparent that there was little or no market for many of the materials recovered or that the cost of retrieving the marketable materials exceeded their value. In addition, prices for these items also declined. As a result, e-recyclers now charge the City to take these items. The City was faced with several options. 1) continue the program and pay for the recycling; 2) discontinue the program as many surrounding municipalities have and let residents figure out what to do with these items; 3) institute a citywide charge on the garbage bills to cover the cost of the program; or 4) start a sticker program for TV’s and monitors in which a sticker would be purchased and affixed to these items prior to dropping them off at Public Works.
Option 2 was discarded as it would be a major inconvenience to our residents to have to find ways to dispose of these items, or worse, lead to “fly dumping” of these items along the side of the road. Option 3 was also discarded as it would have residents paying for a service that they would only occasionally use, or encourage people to collect these items from their friends and relations who don’t live in Northlake and may not have a collection program in their community to bring their items to Northlake (we have had instances where people have brought in excess of 5 TV’s at one time).
The City Council deliberated on the issue and it was determined that the current program would continue, but that residents would need to purchase a sticker for $5 for each TV or monitor they bring in to Public Works. All other consumer electronic items would continue to be accepted at no charge. The stickers will be available for purchase at City Hall beginning on January 4, 2016. The current program will continue as is up to December 31, 2015.

While recycling may be a worthwhile goal, policy makers must take into consideration the cost of recycling non-marketable items and determine if the resources spent on these programs could be better used for other environmental initiatives such as clean water, clean air, storm water management or tree planting. This is especially true in light of the small, but growing movement toward 100% recycling, or zero garbage, including the collection of food scraps. Let’s hope that this discussion takes place as we consider the allocation of resources and what will have a greater impact on our environment.

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