Cell phone recycling technology offers cash for phones - FOX Carolina 21

Cell phone recycling technology offers cash for phones

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Since September 2009, bright green machines have been popping up in malls across the country. They look like ATM's, but while they do give you money, it's not coming from a bank account.

"EcoATM is an automated kiosk that gives people a safe, easy and convenient way to recycle their old electronic devices," said Ryan Kuder, ecoATM vice president of marketing and communications. "We can recognize over 4,000 different types of cell phones, MP3 players and tablets, and the machine uses artificial intelligence and machine vision to evaluate and identify the devices. Then, it offers cash incentive for people to recycle."

The amount of money varies based upon the age of the device. A new iPhone 5s could give a customer as much as $200, whereas an old flip phone may give you a few dollars or nothing at all.

"We work with a number of recycling partners and other people in the chain of getting these phones back into circulation again, so the majority of phones we collect we're able to find a second life for the phone," Kuder said. "When we bring in the phones, what we do is we look through a worldwide network of vetted, environmentally conscious buyers, and then we sell the phones that have re-sale value back into those channels."

One such channel is insurance phones. Kuder said if you insure a device and end up breaking it or dropping it in water, many times the insurance company will send you a replacement that is recycled.

If they can't find a phone a home, ecoATM strips it of all the metal so it can be used in making new devices in the future.

Kuder said it's all part of an environmentally friendly mission.

"Back in 2008, there was a survey that Nokia put out that said only three percent of cell phones worldwide were being recycled," he said. "And in that same year, there were over a billion cell phones manufactured. By creating a safe and easy solution for people, that makes it really simple for them to recycle their own devices. We've been able to get those recycling rates up. In the United States, we purchase somewhere between 150 and 170 million new cell phones per year, and there's estimates that in drawers and in boxes and closets there's somewhere between 300 million and a half a billion old phones that are just sitting around."

Kuder said ecoATM has helped push recycling numbers closer to 20 percent, and that he feels it's a good way for many cell phone companies to help solve the problem that they had a hand in creating.

"The reality is that many of us who have worked in consumer electronics have, by creating all of these devices in the first place, contributed a little bit to the device problem, and what we decided is it makes sense to use technology to help clean up the problem the technology helps to create," he said.

The company also emphasizes security in dealing with every cell phone and its seller.

"The transactions are monitored in real time by humans," Kuder said, "using cameras that are on the machines. We validate ID's to ensure that the people selling us the phone are who they say they are. We collect thumb prints so that we have identification of who's doing the selling, and we work very closely with local police so that they're aware of transactions that are happening and have the support they need to prosecute criminals if the event arises."

Since the first ecoATM was installed in Nebraska, the company has added kiosks across the country. Today, they have more than 880 nationwide, and don't plan to stop anytime soon."

"The reason why ecoATM has worked is because by putting them in places where people go on a regular basis and providing the cash incentive for recycling, we've made it simple for folks to get rid of those old devices that are otherwise just eating up space," Kuder said.

Lubbock has two ecoATMs, located in the South Plains Mall - one by Sears, and the other by Motherhood Maternity.

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