It’s the ultimate modern-day problem: What do you do with all those outdated cell phones, Blackberrys, laptops, used-up ink cartridges, and more? Whether your response is “under the bed,” “in a drawer” or, worst of all, “in a landfill,” it’s bound to be the wrong answer — in 2007, consumer electronics accounted for about 2.25 million short tons of waste, and that number has been skyrocketing ever since.
Enter ecoATM, a new recycling system that offers a quintessentially modern solution to this modern problem: self-service kiosks that function more or less like a Coinstar machine, where you can exchange your old electronics for cash. Here’s how it works: You insert your old device in the slot, wait for an appraisal to come up, and then you get cash back. Instantly (well, ok — after a few minutes). The brief wait time has thus far been the only major complaint about the fifteen or so kiosks currently scattered across Southern California. The machine uses a fancy mix of “patented, advanced machine vision, electronic diagnostics, and artificial intelligence” to figure out exactly how much your old goods are worth.
Though ecoATMs will automatically appraise any electronic device you feed them, the company is unaffiliated with a particular manufacturer. Users can receive payment for their goods in cash, store credit, or trade-in/trade-up promotions — or they can turn their piece of junk into a charitable donation. The eco part comes in the back end — while it’s doing the appraising, the machine is also sorting the device for proper recycling.
In a single year of testing, ecoATM has recycled more than 50,000 devices, and the company is using its impressive $14 million of funding toward aggressive expansion — which will hopefully include the East Coast (we sure would like to get rid of that closet full of old cell phones).