The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Ill., has a clear and important mission – encourage reuse and recycling and discourage disposal. “The 43 municipalities that make up SWALCO’s membership work cooperatively toward one goal: keeping as much material as possible out of the landfill by reducing Lake County’s waste stream,” said Peter Adrian, recycling coordinator for SWALCO. “We work together to solve problems.”
The newest challenge facing the agency and its member municipalities is how to handle the volume of e-waste being dropped off by Lake County’s more than 239,000 households now that a statewide landfill and incineration ban took effect earlier this year. The ban, established as part of the Illinois Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act, prohibits putting televisions, monitors, computers, printers, and other similar devices in the trash. Adrian estimates that by the end of the year SWALCO will have collected 3 million pounds of old electronics, an amount that exceeds last year’s volume by about 30 percent.
The infrastructure necessary to provide the residents of Lake County with free and convenient e-waste collection is considerable, involving partnerships with local governments, independent retailers, and waste haulers. It also requires a recycler that can readily carry out the logistics required to support that infrastructure and process the amount of material generated by high-volume public collections. And although SWALCO has only been working with Sims Recycling Solutions since May, Adrian thinks the agency has found a recycler that is up to the task.
“A company the size of Sims is able to manage a lot of material,” said Adrian. “And our sites are no more than an hour’s drive from Sims’ West Chicago facility, so transporting material is very convenient and cost-effective.” Besides Sims’ capacity and proximity, SWALCO decided to hire the company based on its industry certifications, data destruction methods, and price. SWALCO and Sims signed a contract with multiple one-year options to extend the agreement.
Sims provides a combination of services—including packaging, collection, transportation, and recycling—for SWALCO’s 31 municipal and partner collection sites, many of which operate year-round. Where, and when, requested Sims also provides 40-cubic-yard roll-off containers, trailers for permanent collection sites and one-day collection events, and even live-load collection for those sites able to store material on-site.
More Information, Fewer Barriers
To make sure Lake County’s more than 706,000 residents have the information they need to be good stewards of their electronics, Adrian says SWALCO’s staff and member municipalities use new and traditional communication tools for outreach: press releases, newspaper advertisements, electronic newsletters, and websites as well as email and social media to educate people about how and where to recycle old devices. Adrian added, “We’re always looking for other ways to get the word out. I want people to know that, with the exception of large or coolant-containing appliances, if it has a cord or a battery, we can recycle it.”
Contributing to SWALCO’s ability to divert as much material from the waste stream as possible is Sims’ willingness to accept those items that might be considered beyond the scope of a traditional municipal electronics recycling program, such as holiday lights, microwave ovens, alkaline batteries, cassette tapes, and compact discs.
“We’re certainly glad to see all this material being kept out of landfills and we’re happy to provide a service that others don’t,” said Adrian. “But SWALCO never expected our program to be this big.”