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Living Green

Trading up and trading in gadgets for cash with the ecoATM

Gadget lovers aren’t the only ones eagerly anticipating the latest iteration of Apple’s iPhone, the iPhone 5. Mobile phone recycler ecoATM is looking to expand operations to meet the needs of consumers who want to trade up from their old phones.

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“There are going to be millions of people buying the new iPhone 5. When they do, we want there to be an ecoATM nearby for them to cash in or recycle their old phones,” said Tom Tullie, chairman and chief executive officer of ecoATM.

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The San Diego, California-based startup developed the ecoATM kiosk, a fully automated way to buy back used mobile phones and other portable electronics.

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Last May, the company closed a Series B investment round for the deployment of their kiosks to the tune of around $17 million (see related story).

Currently there are 150 ecoATM installed nationwide, the company is targeting 300 by end of year.

The ecoATM accepts old phones and other mobile devices for recycling and offers the consumer cash on the spot for the item. The company then recycles the gadgets.

“We pay more on average than any of the mail-in options – up to $250 for some phones. That’s enough to pay for your new iPhone 5,” added Mr. Tullie.

Founded in 2008, ecoATM developed their kiosks with support from the National Science Foundation, through two Small Business Innovation Research grants.

The ecoATM kiosk can differentiate between varied consumer electronics products – with a database of more than 4,000 devices – and determine a market value. Not only can the ecoATM tell the difference between cellphone models or a cellphone and a tablet, but it can also evaluate the devices level of damage.

“We are now able to tell the difference between cracked glass on a phone, which is an inexpensive fix, versus a broken display or bleeding pixels, which is generally fatal for the device,” said Mark Bowles, an ecoATM co-founder and NSF principal investigator.

When a consumer places their device into an ecoATM kiosk, a visual inspection is conducted and the device model is identified and its level of damage is evaluated. Proprietary algorithms then determine the devices value based on a real-time, worldwide, pre-auction system and show that value to the consumer.

If the value of the product is acceptable, the consumer has the option of receiving cash or store credit for their trade. There is also a third option by which they can donate all or part of the compensation to charity.

ecoATM is an R2 certified e-waste recycler and is ISO14001 compliant. They are able to find a second life for 75 percent of devices collected. The rest are responsibly recycled. – K. R. Jalbuena

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