Consumerism is an American tradition. And as technological advancements continue, inferior products are constantly being replaced. This may be great for the economy, but not so great for our environment. Electronic devices, especially cell phones, contain hazardous materials that can cause serious environmental harm if not properly disposed of. Unfortunately, many Americans do not know how to recycle these devices.
In 2008, Nokia released a report that revealed only three percent of mobile phones were being recycled worldwide, with a majority laying around in drawers at home (44%) and a few (4%) ending up in landfills. Inspired by these statistics, Mark Bowles founded ecoATM, an e-recycling company that makes recycling old cell phones and mp3 devices as easy as renting a movie from RedBox.
ecoATM currently has over 150 electronics recycling kiosks set up throughout the United States. Found mostly in malls and retail outlets, these kiosks pay out instant cash for old phones, tablets, and mp3 devices and recognize up to 4000 different electronic devices!
The process is quick, convenient, and rewarding. You begin by selecting what type of device you want to sell. The kiosk will then print a tracking label that allows the built-in computer to find the best price for the device on the global market. Upon completing the search, you connect your device to a power cable that evaluates the condition of the device. To prevent fraud and theft, ecoATM scans your ID and thumbprint and securely encrypts this personal information. Once the process is complete, you deposit your device in the kiosk and are given the option to either donate the value of the device to charity or receive cash on the spot.
The topic of E-waste is a controversial in the United States because much of our e-waste finds its way abroad, where instead of being properly recycled it is instead burned or dumped, causing obvious problems to these recipient communities. Consumers that choose to recycle with ecoATM need not have this worry.
ecoATM does one of two things with recycled electronics. Seventy five percent of devices are sold to refurbishers who either resell the devices in the United States or in secondary markets. The remaining 25% of electronic devices that are damaged beyond repair are sent to smelters who responsibly reclaim metals found in these devices and recycle the rest of the product. The majority of damaged electronics are sent to Sims Recycling Solutions, North America’s largest electronics recycler.
The process of responsibly recycling hazardous substances is rigorous and time-intensive. After de-polluting the e-waste by removing hazardous substances from the electronics, the recycling can begin. The e-waste is sent to automated recycling machines where it is shredded and segregated into different materials, such as steel and aluminum. After these metals are smelted down, they can be reused. Up to 20% of the current precious metal supply worldwide is supplied by reclaimed material.
ecoATM is continuously looking to expand. In May of this year, they received $17 million in investments. Tom Tullie, Chief Executive Officer of ecoATM, discussed plans for expansion and future goals for the company. “We envision a network of kiosks in the US of approximately 10,000 so that we are always within 5 miles of 90% of the US population,” Mr. Tullie said. “If we achieve something close to this plan we will have made an enormous contribution to solving the current wasteful life-cycle of used mobile devices in the US.”
By Joey Tanzer, LoaTree