What does the City do with your old computers and chemicals?
Short answer: they’re reused, recycled, treated, incinerated, or sent to specialized hazardous waste landfills.
Everything has its place
Wish as we may, items dropped off at the Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility (HCCRF) don’t just vanish. All of the electronics and chemicals collected at the City’s Goose Island hazardous waste facility need to be sorted and repackaged in accordance with EPA and DOT standards, then sent for proper disposal/management.
The HCCRF oversees the safe collection and repackaging of items, and contractors are relied on for the actual treatment of household chemicals and recycling of electronics. But before anything is sent to recycling, the facility aims to reuse items, whenever it makes sense.
Did you know you can score free stains, automotive fluids, and cleaners from the facility’s material exchange room?
Many of the items dropped off at the HCCRF are ultimately reused by other members of the community. Wood stains, motor oil, pool chemicals, and household cleaners dropped off in usable condition are often available for free from the facility’s material exchange room.
You can take these items home, free of charge, whether you drop something off or not.
Some items dropped off at the facility can’t be reused but their parts are still valuable. These items, like non-functional computers, are broken down so that reusable parts can be provided to those who need them.
Electronics contain precious metals that are increasingly scarce, so it’s important to harvest these materials for future use.
Through recycling, precious metals like gold and platinum can be harvested for making new electronics, while materials that harm the environment, such as mercury and lead, can be managed as hazardous waste.
Supply-Chain Services, Inc., the company responsible for recycling all the electronics dropped off at the HCCRF, is R2/RIOS certified: this means they recycle electronics in ways that are safe for the environment following Recycling Industry Operating Standard procedures.
photo ©Civil Agents
Valuable resources like oil and gasoline collected at the HCCRF, are sent to facilities for repurposing. Similarly, rechargeable batteries are sent to facilities where the metal is removed and reused. Fuel blending facilities reuse and process industrial waste in cement kilns to harness energy and preserve non-renewable resources.
Incineration is used for some items that cannot be reused or broken down for materials but can be safely incinerated. While incineration is a popular disposal method in some European countries, the practice can release air pollutants that harm the environment and public health. For items dropped off at the HCCRF that require this method, environmental controls are required.
The HCCRF requires that Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities (TSDF) obtain a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Part B permit in order to accept hazardous waste. These facilities employ higher-quality air pollution control equipment to manage incineration emissions. Heritage Environmental Services uses a rotary kiln incineration process, which requires time, temperature, and turbulence to break down hazardous materials.
Air pollution control equipment can help manage emissions, but some items just aren’t safe to incinerate.
For these materials, the facility relies on a highly regulated landfill that is designed specifically for disposing of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is treated to be safe for handling and secure disposal and then sent to landfills that are fully compliant with EPA regulations.
In Illinois, residents are required by law to recycle most electronics and computer equipment because they contain hazardous substances, such as lead and mercury, that contaminate our soil, water, and air.
The same goes for common household cleaners and chemicals; when released into the environment they can severely pollute our land and waterways. As chemical engineering progresses, proper disposal of chemicals becomes even more critical.
How do you know if a chemical is hazardous and needs to go to the HCCRF? Look on the label for these cautionary terms:
In nature, chemicals can combine to form deadly cocktails that harm wildlife and water sources. For these reasons and more, please don’t pour cleaners down the drain. Take them to the HCCRF instead.
The City also hosts monthly Electronics Recycling Events at locations across the city from April through December.
Sign up for schedule reminders to get updates on electronic recycling events too.