Innovation That Matters

An ATM for recycling consumer electronics


Of 140 million cell phones sold in the US in 2007, only 10% were recycled, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. That leaves a mounting pile of e-waste to deal with. Offering a solution is EcoATM, an automated reuse-and-recycle machine that makes it easy and financially rewarding for consumers to offload their abandoned electronics. The process is simple: a customer feeds the machine an old mobile phone and it analyses the device and assigns it a value. If the phone has a resale value, the customer receives store credit, or can donate the amount to charity. If there’s no resale value, customers can choose to have the handset recycled. The first EcoATM was installed in Omaha, Nebraska, and has already proved successful, with 23 phones collected on the first day. It’s likely to hold appeal for retailers and manufacturers too, as the system is designed to facilitate compliance with new federal ‘takeback’ laws. Although it currently only takes mobile phones, EcoATM will soon be able to accept a range of consumer electronics including MP3 players, digital cameras and even computers and printers. Similar to the reverse vending machines we covered a few years ago—which make for easy recycling of beverage containers—the EcoATM’s combination of convenience and a reward will no doubt appeal to consumers who might otherwise neglect to find a destination for unused gadgets. The incentive for EcoATM is clear: an estimated 12 billion dollars is currently sitting in drawers across America in the form of old phones. (Related: Retail approach to recyclingIncentive-based recyclingStartup buys broken iPods and abandoned GameCubes.) Spotted by: CNET via Judy McRae



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