NEWS FROM THE
ILLINOIS ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (IEPA)
Emerging Solutions for Emerging Materials
One of the few constants in materials management is the growing market of new products sold to consumers that need to be evaluated. Indeed, an ever-expanding population of consumer items means the universe of end-of-life handling issues is also perpetually growing. Traditionally, the default solution was landfilling. However, that is often environmentally undesirable and does not have to be the logical result. Recognizing that, the Illinois EPA is stepping up to promote landfill alternatives for two emerging materials streams: e-cigarettes and cannabis products.
Don’t Let Diversion Opportunities Go Up in Smoke
E-cigarettes are electronic devices used to simulate smoking tobacco or cannabis. Devices are typically handheld, battery-powered, noncombustible products that vaporize a liquid solution containing nicotine or cannabis extract. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.8% of American adults, or approximately 7 million people in the United States, use e-cigarettes regularly. In general, e-cigarettes should be handled like any other item at the end of its useful life. Unique waste handling issues linked to e-cigarettes are tied to three components that do not necessarily need to be landfilled: batteries, e-liquids, and the device itself.
E-cigarettes should not be placed in curbside bins for recycling because they are often not made of the type of plastic that can be recovered through curbside recycling, and they often contain batteries.
· Batteries. Batteries are banned from curbside recycling bins because of the fire risk batteries pose when comingled with other items. If possible, batteries should be removed from e-cigarettes and taken to a battery recycler.
· E-Liquids. Unused e-liquids and containers with e-liquid residue should be handled as household hazardous waste, if generated by individuals. These wastes may pose human health and environmental concerns because they may contain nicotine and other materials that could be hazardous. If littered or otherwise not properly handled, discarded e-liquid containers could impact soil or waterways and thereby expose Illinois residents to potentially hazardous materials. E-liquid containers should be taken to a household hazardous waste collection site for safe handling.
· E-Cigarette Devices. Some e-cigarettes can be recycled or reused by returning them to the point of purchase. Users should clean e-cigarettes prior to returning them. Information on cleaning e-cigarettes can be found here.
Using these currently available services helps protect the environment from the release of hazardous materials and minimizes the amount of material that goes to landfills.
Go Green while Growing Green
Effective January 1, 2020, recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Illinois. As cultivation centers and growers have expanded in Illinois, new cannabis-impacted materials streams have emerged. The cultivation and use of cannabis may generate wastes such as marijuana plant material, infused products, fertilizers, solvents, wastewater, mercury-containing lighting, cleaning solutions, and universal wastes (batteries, pesticides, mercury containing equipment, lamps, etc.). The end-of-life handling method varies from waste stream to waste stream, but is based on existing Illinois law. Cannabis growth and use generates two types of materials that are excellent candidates for landfill diversion: household-generated growing agents and organic material.
Illinois law only allows medical cannabis patients to grow cannabis plants at home. Home growers may generate a wide range of potentially problematic materials, including herbicides, pesticides, cleaning products, solvents, and fluorescent light bulbs needed to cultivate cannabis plants. These wastes may be disposed of at an Illinois EPA-authorized Household Hazardous Waste collection location, which helps prevent the release of hazardous materials to the environment.
Organic waste is, by volume, the largest waste stream related to cannabis growth and use. State law requires organic cannabis waste, such as cannabis and cannabis-infused products, be rendered unusable at the end of its life by mixing it with other non-consumable materials. Cannabis waste should not be mixed with toxic substances, such as bleach or ammonia, to render the waste unusable. The resulting mixture does not necessarily have to be landfilled. In fact, cannabis waste mixed with food scraps or landscape wastes may be sent to a permitted compost facility or anaerobic digester. This helps minimize the volume of material we generate that is not recovered and instead is used to create a valuable soil additive.
The Illinois EPA remains committed to aiding and encouraging the development of disposal alternatives for new and unique materials streams derived from constantly evolving commercial operations in order to protect the health, welfare, and environment for the citizens of Illinois.