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Residents' options to dispose of older televisions continue to dwindle

Kane County residents who are thinking about disposing their older-model televisions might want to move quickly. Their options are dwindling.

Because of growing demand and uncertain funding, many municipalities have discontinued their drop-off services, which allowed residents to dispose of their unwanted electronics items, including TVs. In Kane County, only West Dundee and St. Charles still offer the drop-off service, and both programs soon will be ending. The St. Charles drop-off site is at 1405 S. Seventh Ave., St. Charles. Its hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Items should not be dropped off outside of those hours.

That will leave one option for free disposal in Kane County – a monthly recycling collection by Kane County Recycles at 540 S. Randall Road, St. Charles. The collection now takes place only during the warmer months of the year. The next event takes place from 8 a.m. to noon April 9. Another is set for May 14.

At those events, lines are long, and a news release warns that the lines might be significantly longer at the April 9 event because several additional items will be accepted. Jennifer Jarland, Kane County’s recycling program coordinator, said people will be turned away after seven trailers are filled. About 60 percent to 70 percent of the items on the trailers will be TVs, she said.

TVs, in particular, have become a significant issue. Officials noted that flat-screen TVs have grown rapidly in popularity, and – as their prices have gone down – people increasingly have looked to get rid of their older TVs. Also, they noted that the older TVs are heavy. They can’t legally be thrown in landfills. There are few places to send them for the recycling process. There are expenses involved, but the county and municipalities aren’t allowed to charge a fee. And there are just so many of the TVs.

“There is just a glut of TVs coming in,” Jarland said. “We are receiving an unbelievable volume of old TVs. … Nobody expected it to be this bad. And there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.”

Jarland said she sometimes might receive 10 calls a day from people saying they have large TVs to recycle. Until this year, residents could drop off their TVs at Best Buy, but the retailer now charges a $25 fee for the service. In a notice posted on its website, Best Buy notes that customers, as of last month, now will be charged $25 for each TV and computer monitor that is recycled, and it notes that the program is discontinued in Illinois and Pennsylvania because laws prevent it from collecting fees for the program.

Ken Anderson, Kane County’s director of environmental and water resources, said the process is labor-intensive.

“You’ve really got to have a staff or at least a staff member really devoted to make it work,” Anderson said.

John Lamb, the environmental services manager in St. Charles, said the city just isn’t able to continue its program after so many other
municipalities have discontinued their efforts. Since others have ended their programs, he said, there has been an increase in the number of items dropped off. He said the program never was meant to produce revenue. Instead, he said, it was to “do what we thought was the right thing.” But, he said, “it’s become unmanageable.” He said items sometimes are left at the gate outside of collection hours.

A date to end the program in St. Charles has not yet been established, but it is scheduled to end before the next Kane County collection effort. Also, Kane County’s program is scheduled through May, but a June date isn’t guaranteed. If that option closes, residents might need to call waste haulers or those who specialize in cleanup. One such business stated fees of $145 to remove smaller TVs and $195 for those larger than 32 inches. A fear is that people wanting to get rid of their TVs might simply dispose of them illegally.

The Forest Preserve District of Kane County recently issued a news release advising that items continue to be dumped on forest preserve property. John Goreth, the forest preserve district’s director of operations and maintenance, said there were about 20 TVs dumped in the district’s northern area last year and about a dozen dumped in the southern region.

“People tend to clean their houses out, and we tend to get dumped on,” Goreth said, adding that removing items that have been dumped becomes burdensome.

Solutions to the problem could include allowing municipalities to collect a fee for the service or placing much more of the burden on the manufacturers. However, it is possible that the county program could come to an end before such answers can be found.

“If our events are not able to be continued because of the cost and the extraordinary volumes that we are receiving, what we’re going to have to ask is for people to just hold onto them,” Jarland said. “That is going to have to be our very kind request. … We have to appeal to people to do the right thing. Don’t dispose of it illegally, and don’t throw it in the roadside or in the park.”

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