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All those new computers, televisions and other electronics received for Christmas and at other times of the year come with a built-in challenge that can be as tricky as trying to figure out how to use them.

They contain hazardous materials and thus can't be legally pitched in the trash and hauled off to a landfill when their lifetime of usefulness is up.

But complying with this regulation can be a challenge depending on where you live in the Region and how compatible your schedule is with the hours of operation at the various electronic drop-off recycling locations.

The Valparaiso compost site at 2150 W. Lincolnway was to reopen a week ago after being closed for nearly a month and the Boone Grove site at 546 S. County Road 400 West is closed Dec. 1 through March 25, said Therese Haller, executive director of Porter County Recycling & Waste Reduction.

The Valparaiso site currently is open just on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., she said. The Monday through Saturday hours at both Valparaiso and Boone Grove will not begin until March.

The only drop-off site in the county open to all county residents during the December break was at the Portage Streets and Sanitation Department at 2303 Hamstrom Road, Haller said.

Haller said her department will be investigating how other counties around the state are handling the collection of electronics, household hazardous waste and other items to be kept out of landfills. This could involve finding a new home for the department where collection of waste materials could take place.

"There are other models we're going to look at," she said.

Portage offers curbside electronic equipment collection for residents during the first pickup of each month, according to the department.

Valparaiso collects electronics as part of regular curbside pickup.

Lake County tops a million pounds in collections

The Lake County Solid Waste Management District provides seven electronic recycling drop-off locations around the county open five or six days a week.

The locations were chosen to provide convenient drop-off sites for residents across the county, District Executive Director Jeanette Romano said.

More than 1 million pounds of electronics were collected by the district in 2017, she said. Last year's figure is still being compiled.

Porter County collected 580,386 pounds of electronics last year, which was down from 673,260 pounds in 2017 and 666,936 pounds in 2016, Haller said.

The Lake County district refers residents of Dyer, Griffith, Lakes of the Four Seasons or St. John to contact their public works departments for electronic recycling in their community and says retailers such as Best Buy, Amazon and Dell offer recycling options.

Counties not required to host collections

Counties and municipalities are not required by law to offer electronic collection or pickup, according to Barry Sneed, public information officer with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

State lawmakers enacted the Indiana Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Law in 2009, which prohibits households, small businesses and public (including charter) schools from disposing of electronic equipment to landfills or for incineration, he said.

The problem is that electronics contain "heavy metals, including lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium that can be harmful if released into the environment," according to Sneed.

"Recycling electronics ensures these materials are safely managed and that valuable materials such as steel, glass, and plastic, as well as precious metals such as copper, gold, tin, silicon and aluminum are reclaimed for the manufacturing of new products," he said.

There are also numerous manufacturers of electronic equipment that offer take-back programs, he said.

Romano said electronic equipment collected in Lake and Porter counties is taken to Green Wave Computer Recycling in Indianapolis and the stripping of the materials takes place in the state.

"They try to recycle as much of it as they can," she said.

The LaPorte County Solid Waste District offers electronic recycling drop-off Monday through Friday at its office at 2857 W. Ind. 2 in LaPorte and in Michigan City at 1027 Hitchcock Road, and during its periodic 5-in-1 collections.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.