As mobile phone sales take off, so too are recycling options for used gadgets, including a robotic ATM that uses artificial intelligence to dispense cash for mobile devices.
The market for recycling electronics, “e-cycling,” has been transformed by the proliferation of mobile phones, often replaced every 18 months.
“They’re smaller and lighter, so they’re easier to collect …and consumers turn them over more quickly,” says Walter Acorn of the Consumer Electronics Association. And they contain valuable metals such as copper, silver and gold. “Entrepreneurs are stepping in to pay for that value,” he says.
– Buyback programs (AT). Companies such as YouChange, Recellular, YouRenew, BuyMyTronics, MaxBack and Gazelle, pay cash for used devices and provide prepaid postage for mailing them. Apple and Best Buy, as well as wireless carriers including Verizon and AT&T, offer store credit.
– Charitable options(AT). Cell Phones for Soldiers refurbishes and sells old phones, using the proceeds to buy calling cards for U.S. troops overseas. March of Dimes uses such cash for medical research on birth defects . Recycling for Charities and Eco-Cell benefit an array of causes.
– Drop-off locations(AT). Most electronics retailers don’t pay for broken phones but will recycle them for free. Others, including Target and Lowe’s, have in-store recycling bins.
– EcoATMs(AT). This robotic machine, now in more than 165 malls and grocery stores nationwide and likely twice as many by year’s end, uses artificial intelligence to identify a device and assess its condition before offering a price for it. Consumers can choose cash or a donation to charity.
“It’s great there are options for people to sell or donate their stuff,” and thus keep them out of landfills, says Barbara Kyle of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, which promotes responsible e-cycling. She recommends recyclers listed on e-stewards.org that have pledged not to sell old devices to poor countries, where some hazardous waste may be dumped .
Jennifer Berry of Earth 911, a company that runs a recycling directory, says although personal data can be stripped from old phones before recycling, up to 75(per cent) of them are stockpiled in drawers. “People just don’t like to recycle their mobile phones,” Berry says.