Earlier this spring, I spent a blustery Saturday morning searching the Internet for a place to recycle the small pile of broken electronics and appliances that had been accumulating in my dining room all winter. I had a toaster, a cell phone, two cameras, a tuner, and a handful of batteries that didn't qualify for Walgreen's recycling program. Nothing big, but nothing I wanted to trash, either. I found places that recycled computer parts, and others that accepted obsolete (but still functional) electronics, and even a site that charged exorbitant amounts of money for me to pack my e-waste in their special box and ship it to some recycling company in another state.
Frustrated, I was about to give up when I stumbled across this small, inconspicuous link on the Abt Electronics web site. Their flagship store in Glenview has a stand-alone recycling center, located on the southwest side of their lot, slightly behind their main building. Not only would they accept all the odds and ends in my bag of miscellaneous electronics, all but a select few appliances (such as TVs, computers, air conditioners, and refrigerators) are recycled free of charge. They are also one of 75 drop off centers for Sony-- meaning that all Sony products may be dropped off for "e-cycling" at no cost to the consumer.
According to their web site (and some related links), they also accept cell phones, cardboard, and styrofoam-- STYROFOAM!-- and recycle "...five tractor-trailor loads of appliances each day". Much of this volume includes the old appliances they haul away when new ones are delivered, but word is spreading and the public is catching on fast. They also recycle much of the packaging the new appliances arrive in, as well as the wooden pallets on which they are delivered. The company has implemented an impressive number of other green initiatives, but I'll try and limit my focus here, so I don't get all giggly about solar panels and green fleets. You can read a number of articles on their environmental prowess, linked from their site, provided you can find it!
The recycling center opened in 2006, and-- according to the guy who helped me recycle my sad old TV, a styrofoam cooler, and a friend's broken printer last week-- "e-cycling" was made available to the public late last year. From 2:00-7:00, Thursday through Saturday, people can just drive up and drop off whatever they want to recycle. The only complaint I have with this program is that the information isn't posted more prominently on their home page, and that they don't really advertise these services. If it were me, I'd be shouting it from the roof tops!
While I try to avoid a trip to the North Shore as much as the next city dweller, I have yet to find a place in the city that accepts such a wide range of appliances. Some chain retailers of electronics and office supplies do accept a few of these items for recycling, but the fee they charge is pretty steep by comparison. So, in my mind, the remarkable environmental service that Abt Electronics provides to the Chicagoland area at little to no cost to the public makes it well worth the drive.