Co-founder Mark Bowles says he came up with the idea for the ecoATM several years ago after reading a trade industry survey. It found only 3 percent of people had ever recycled their old cell phone.
BOWLES: "And in that year there was about a billion mobile phones shipped, so I thought what was happening with the other 990-millon, whatever, phones?"
BOWLES: "Seventy-five percent of what we collect finds a second life as the device it started as. It gets refurbished, cleaned up; and that's the best thing for the environment, is to just reuse that same thing, so another one doesn't have to be built."
The other 25 percent are recycled for the precious metals like gold, silver and platinum. Mining for these elements leaves substanial amounts of toxic mining waste just to extract enough materials for a cell phone, says Bowles, so re-using these materials drastically reduces envionrmental degradation.
The company has about 50 ecoATMS, mostly in southern California, and is installing seven in Sacramento this week. To find an ecoATM near you, check out the website.