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Abt Takes On E-Waste

By Ashley Mastandrea

May 2008 | On Our Radar

Abt Electronics new recycling center accepts e-waste, as well as styrofoam, cardboard, polystyrene and appliances.

Electronics that have seen their last days of use, commonly referred to as e-waste, can release toxins and carcinogens into the land, water and air if not recycled or disposed of properly. In a world where we are increasingly dependent on the technology that changes year-to-year, e-waste is becoming a problem.

Thanks to Abt Electronics in Glenview, getting rid of that old television set or computer monitor just got easier. In building a new recycling center to increase it's internal recycling program's efficiency, Abt created a way for the public to responsibly dispose of its e-waste. In addition to taking e-waste, the new center accepts Styrofoam, cardboard, polystyrene and appliances.

"We've been doing a lot of things on the back end, and now we're working on the front end with the public in mind," said Mike Abt, store president. "We were always recycling internally; we basically just ran out of room. We were filling six semis a day, and it was a bit unsightly."

The new center took care of the aesthetic problem of semis and provides 14 dock doors for Abt's fleet of nearly 150 biodiesel trucks to drop off recyclables. The warehouse also houses a machine for bailing cardboard, a machine for cutting up Styrofoam for use as home insulation and more room for handling recyclables. Plus, the building itself is green, with Pulsar lights that are 17 percent more efficient than traditional lighting, sensors that turn lights off when not in use and high-efficiency, oversized fans for temperature control.

The company is also going green in other areas. It's trucking fleet is washed with a newly built truck wash that uses recycled water, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by giving drivers the opportunity to drive their trucks home at the end of the day and all vehicle maintenance is performed onsite. Additionally, a natural gas co-generator powers the store.

"We are in the process of installing a solar windmill on the roof," said Abt. "We will educate our customers about this technology with a display in our atrium." The Aerotrubines are the invention of Bil Becker, owner of Aerotecture, a Chicago-based company that is working to transform the way we harvest energy. Their wind electric turbines can be attached to buildings or integrated into the building's existing architecture (Urban Wind Visionary/August 2005). "It's like a sculpture, but it will generate power," said Abt of the turbine.

This innovative step toward alternative energy sources is something he wants to share with their customers. "We're trying to educate our customers," said Abt. "They want to learn what to do." The turbine exhibit will accompany the existing EnergyStar video display featuring Al Gore already in the store.

"People should know they can make a big difference by how they spend their money and take care of their waste," said Abt. "I was a biology major, and went to school in Colorado. This is just my background. I sell TVs for a living; I need to do this to justify my career."

Abt Electronics is located at 1200 N. Milwaukee Ave., Glenview, IL. The recycling center is open Thursday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Some electronics may require a drop-off fee to offset storage, handling and transportation costs. For more information, visit abt.com.