County doesn’t opt into new state recycling program

December 27, 2018

The cities of Sterling and Rock Falls thought they had found cost-effective solutions for collecting and transporting electronic recyclables, but combating the problem has again become complicated.

In Sterling, residents have been able to drop off TVs, computers and other electronic waste at the Public Works building at 1605 Avenue L since June 2016.

After volunteers, led by the Sauk Valley Landlord Association, put together one-time cleanup events for a couple of years in Rock Falls, the Rock Falls Recycling Center was set up in November 2017, on city property at 2400 First Ave.

Both cities made arrangements for URT Solutions of Janesville, Wisconsin to haul the waste from the sites. Thanks to a fund that had been set up by electronics manufacturers, much of the cost had been picked up and residents could drop off items for free.

A new law, effective in January, has changed the state’s electronic waste recycling program. To be eligible for the program and money from the manufacturers fund in 2019, counties had to opt into the program by March 2018. They also had to make plans to eventually set up a single countywide drop-off site or prove that at least four collection events were held at additional sites.

County Board Chairman Jim Duffy said he had no knowledge of the changes or the opt-in requirements. The county doesn’t offer recycling services. For 2019, 58 municipalities, including Ogle and Carroll counties, opted into the program.

County Administrator Joel Horn also said no information had been received about the 2019 program from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’re getting emails about a meeting in Springfield for program year 2020, but we never heard from them about 2019,” Horn said. “I’m getting more information about it and I plan to go to the conference on January 30.”

Both cities only recently found out about the changes to the program. Rock Falls Alderman Rod Kleckler, also president of the Sauk Valley Landlord Association, said he had been submitting forms each year to tap into the manufacturers fund.

“Because Moring Disposal didn’t provide the service, we were considered an underserved community and funds were available,” Kleckler said. “We were notified a few weeks ago by the hauling company that the county hadn’t opted into the program.”

Kleckler was told that URT could still pick up the waste, but the city would have to foot the bill. There would be a $700 hauling fee for each truckload, plus fuel reimbursement and an additional charge of 15 cents for each pound of waste taken away.

“Depending on what’s on there, the weight fee could be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000,” Kleckler said.

Both cities will continue to collect the e-waste at their respective sites, but they will have to figure out how to pay for hauling it and the county has only 3 months to make plans for opting in for 2020.

“People can still bring things, but it’s disappointing that the city will have to come up with $10,000 to $12,000 to pay for the service,” Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard said.

That money is likely to come from the city’s solid waste fund. The city says it will be extra vigilant in making sure the items are all coming from Sterling residents. Residents must already produce photo identification when dropping off items.

Despite the complications, the cities don’t want to lose the programs.

“If this program goes away, the TVs and other items will wind up in ditches and alleys again,” Shumard said.

Rock Falls is also considering taking money from its garbage fund to pay for the hauling service until other arrangements can be made. Volunteers from Firehouse of God Ministries will continue to staff collections at the Rock Falls Recycling Center.

Residents have had few options for discarding electronics since Jan. 1, 2012, when those items were banned from landfills.

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