In today's "digital age" Americans are using more electronics than ever before. When an electronic item is no longer wanted by its original owner there are three paths for responsible disposal: refurbishment/resale, donation for reuse and recycling.
Refurbishment/resale is generally limited to recent models of high-demand devices in very good condition. Many electronics retailers offer trade-in programs where the traded-in items are refurbished and resold, either domestically or overseas. The customer trading in a device usually receives store credit towards a new purchase. Shoppers can also reduce their environmental footprints and save money by buying certified second-hand electronics from reputable vendors instead of buying new.
Some thrift stores accept donations of used electronics for reuse and resale, and they may accept a wider range of items than for-profit refurbishment operations. For example, flat screen TVs, portable DVD players, small kitchen appliances and past-model video game systems in good working order are all good options for donation. However, thrift stores generally can't take items that are obsolete or for which there is very little demand. Examples of these unwanted items include CRT (rear projection) TVs, home printers, land line phones, fax machines, etc. There are a few thrift store chains that take household electronics listed near the bottom of this page.
Devices that are too old or low-demand for resale still contain valuable materials that can be recovered and recycled by disassembling the devices. In some cases, the law requires recycling to keep high volumes of toxic material out of landfills. In 2017, the Illinois legislature passed the Consumer Electronics Recycling Act (CERA) which bans certain electronics from landfills. CERA applies to computers (laptop and desktop), computer monitors (all technology types), computer keyboards & mice, televisions (all technology types), fax machines, printers, scanners, VCRs, DVD players, portable digital music players, video game consoles, cable boxes, satellite receivers, digital converter boxes, and small scale (non-commercial) servers. CERA is an extended producer responsibility law, meaning that it requires manufacturers of the devices listed above to provide funding for the transportation and recycling of those devices. (See Frequently Asked Questions below for info on the fee charged for TVs and monitors at Kane County Recycling Centers)
CERA covers many electronics used in home offices and for home entertainment
While CERA was an important step forward for Illinois, there are many home electronics that it does not cover, including kitchen electrics, cell phones, cameras, and the assortment of chargers, cables, wires and adaptors that tend to accumulate in many households. These products all contain metal components that can be stripped and recycled. Kane County and its partner, eWorks Electronic Services, accept an expanded menu of electronics at our Recycling Centers to reduce the amount of reusable material going to landfills.
Kane County accepts many additional home electronics at our Recycling Centers, including those pictured.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are my used electronics worth money? Recent models of high demand mobile devices (laptops, tablets, cell phones, smart watches) in very good condition may be eligible for trade-in for cash or store credit/gift cards through retailer programs. Many electronics retailers and "big box stores" offer take-back programs. There are also online retailers that buy used electronics. Some metal scrappers buy e-waste and e-waste components by the pound. Kane County's Recycling Centers do not buy electronic devices.
Are electronics collected at Kane County Recycling Centers ever reused or resold? Recent models of high demand devices brought to our Centers may be selected for refurbishment. If deemed repairable, all data will be completely erased (see next question), the repairs made, and the items donated or resold with the proceeds supporting eWorks' non-profit mission. We encourage Kane County residents to explore repair options for newer/high-value items before deciding to recycle old devices and buy new. We can do a lot to address eWaste problems by extending the working life of our gadgets.
If I drop off a data-containing device at a Kane County Recycling Center, how is my personal data kept safe? Kane County contracts with eWorks Electronic Services, Inc. located in Elk Grove Village. EWorks is R2 (Responsible Recycling) certified, which means they must meet rigorous standards for the handling of all data-containing devices. Data containing devices are kept locked up at the Recycling Centers when stored overnight. Once they are transported to eWorks in Elk Grove, the devices are separated into two streams - those intended for resale (newer devices only) and those intended for recycling. All devices and components routed for recycling have their hard drives or data cards shredded. Devices selected for resale are segregated carefully at eWorks and remain in locked storage at all times. Trained technicians implement BLANCO data erasure software and the Department of Defense Standard 7-pass kill disk to completely erase existing data prior to resale. Are there any home electronics that Kane County doesn't take? Yes, there are a few. See our Centers Guide for details. The first category of things we can't take is where the size/weight of the item is very large compared to the recyclable pieces. Examples of these are pieces of exercise equipment, wood cabinet speakers, and toys with electronic components. If owners separate the electronic components from these items, we can accept those components. The second category is items containing certain hazardous substances. We cannot take any items with coolant (e.g. fridges, freezers, dehumidifiers, water coolers, ice makers, air conditioners), home thermostats, or smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, or lawn equipment containing any fuel. We also can't take loose batteries or light bulbs. Media items like CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, floppy disks, etc. are being accepted at our Batavia location only on a pilot basis.
If the Consumer Electronics Recycling Act (CERA) requires manufacturers to pay for recycling, why is there a fee to recycle TVs and monitors at the County Recycling Centers? The law requires manufacturers to pay for the transportation and recycling of electronics and the physical materials required to package electronics for recycling (shipping boxes, pallets, pallet wrap, etc.). The law does not cover any of the costs associated with collecting electronics for recycling, including labor and equipment used for loading. The law does allow collectors to charge fees for TVs and monitors recoup these costs. Kane County's contract with eWorks also allows eWorks to charge fees for collection of TVs and monitors. Without these fees, which are retained entirely by eWorks, the County's recycling program would not be able to support staffed collection sites.
Are there local options outside of the County program for donating ? Yes! Residents are encouraged to check out options to donate dated but working electronics for reuse.
Goodwill Industries accepts: toys, small power tools, most home electronics (rear projection TVs and monitors not accepted) (all items should be clean and in working condition - otherwise recycle) Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts: TVs over 40" and less than 10 years old, counter-top microwaves, table and floor lamps, decorative lighting, electric space heaters, modern appliances, light fixtures and ceiling fans, power tools (all items should be clean and in working condition - otherwise recycle; also, it is recommended to check with your local store to confirm item acceptance as their needs can vary). Salvation Army accepts: Working electronics, home electrics and appliances. Check with your waste hauler and your municipality for special pick-up or drop off days. Sometimes these are done at no cost to residents, even for large items like TVs and monitors. Best Buy has an electronics recycling program (items do not need to have been purchased at Best Buy; there is a fee for TVs and monitors, and a quantity limit per visit)