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Cell Phone Recycling Kiosks Coming to Sacramento

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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?"

The company opened the first trade-in kiosk in 2009, but it was manned by a human.  Now it's all electronic:
BOWLES: "You place your phone in the inspection chamber, the cameras and the artificial intelligence evaluates first what the model is, and then we know what cable to present you, so there's a robotic system that presents the right cable."
You plug in the cable and after running a few tests, the computer offers a price for your trade-in, based on real-time auction bids for the phone.  If you take the offer, the machine doles out the cash.  
To date the program has recycled more than 350,000 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.


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