January 10, 2013

Huge increase



NORMAL — Electronic recycling rates went up by about 50 percent in 2012 after a state law banned the products from landfills.

Normal Public Works Department Director Robin Weaver said 420,764 pounds of electronics were dropped off at the town’s electronic recycling area in 2012 — a 45 percent increase over 2011. The city of Bloomington does not offer an electronic recycling drop-off center, but Normal’s site on Warriner Street is open to all.

Vintage Tech Recyclers, the Romeoville-based company that processes electronics recycled through Normal, Home Sweet Home Ministries, Habitat for Humanity of McLean County, Heartland Community College and numerous other communities and groups throughout the state, processed about 46 million pounds of electronics in 2012 — up from 32 million pounds in 2011.

That’s even above the 32 million-pound goal the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency set in 2011 for electronic manufacturers to meet in 2012, said Michelle Bentley of the IEPA.

Those goals — and attempts by electronic manufacturers to get ahead of the curve — are what prompted the growth of Vintage Tech, said Seth Smith, the company’s business development manager.

“Before the legislation took off, manufacturers were scrambling to find reputable places” to recycle the products, said Smith.

Vintage Tech teamed up with a group of those manufacturers in 2009, he said. The manufacturers helped fund the upgrades Vintage Tech needed to handle the expected increase in electronic recycling.

The company went from recycling a mere 80,000 pounds by its owner and sole employee when it was started in 2005 to having 100 employees and recycling 32 million pounds in 2011, Smith said.

Vintage Tech has been serving Normal since 2009. Originally, the town paid shipping costs but the under the current contract, Vintage Tech collects the electronics free of charge, Weaver said.

Home Sweet Home Ministries teamed up with the company in late 2011 and gets paid for the electronics it collects for recycling. Last year, 346,644 pounds were collected, said Sabrina Burkiewicz, marketing and retail manager for Home Sweet Home.

That brought almost $9,000 to the agency, said Chris Trimble, manager of Home Sweet Home’s warehouse.

“The new law has had a huge impact along with our collaborations with the Ecology Action Center on the America Recycles Day, Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Day and the Green Expo in April,” Burkiewicz said.

Michael Brown, executive director of the Normal-based Ecology Action Center, said electronics recycling has a number of benefits.

“First there’s conservation of precious natural resources; metals and other materials are reclaimed and back in the market place,” he said.

In addition, he said, because the electronics — many of which contain lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxic materials — aren’t going into the landfill, the materials aren’t ultimately leaching into ground water supplies.

“That was one of the big things with the law; to better protect local environments and therefore residents,” Brown said.

Smith said Vintage Tech has what is called a “closed loop process,” meaning none of the materials from the electronics goes to landfills.

“We tear down the material to raw commodities,” he said. “Then it’s shipped to smelters and/or mills.”

Glass that contains lead is sent to an approved downstream recycler, he said.

Vintage Tech is one of 30 electronic recyclers worldwide with an “e-Stewards Certification,” which means it abides by standards for responsible recycling and reuse of electronic equipment.

“It ensures environmental compliance and protection of data,” Smith said.