Imagine if recycling your old cell phone or iPod was as easy as taking cash out of the ATM. That’s the idea behind ecoATM, a self-serve kiosk where you can drop off small electronic devices for cash or store credit.
The San Diego-based company announced Wednesday that it raised $14.4 million to launch its automated recycling kiosks nationwide. One of its newest investors is Coinstar, a company known for its coin-counting kiosks.
EcoATM currently has 11 locations – a handful of malls in the San Diego area, two furniture stores in Nebraska and Microsoft’s headquarters in Washington. While the company isn’t releasing new locations yet, it plans to set up 100 new kiosks nationwide this year, according to ecoATM spokeswoman Anita Giani.
“The funding will enable us to manufacture and deploy 100 new kiosks this year,” she said. “In 2012, we plan to deploy up to 1,000 more and eventually have a broad national footprint.”
With its 11 trial locations, ecoATM has already collected tens of thousands of small electronics including cell phones, mp3 players and video game players. The self-serve kiosk is a convenient solution for e-waste, the nation’s fastest growing waste stream. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that U.S. households own nearly 3 billion electronic devices, and many of those devices are no longer in use.
How does an ecoATM work? You simply place an old phone into the kiosk, where the ecoATM scans and identifies the product. Then hook up the phone to a cable – this runs a test to determine the phone’s working condition and buy-back price. Select how you would like to accept payment – in cash, credit at the store hosting the kiosk or donation to charity. The kiosk then whisks away your old phone to erase its data before shipping it off for recycling. [See video below.]
EcoATM follows the recycling hierarchy – trying to reuse as many of the electronic products they collect before recycling them. “All working cell phones are re-sold,” Giani said. “There is actually a big [international] market for used cell phones.”
EcoATM also announced Wednesday that it received a patent for its kiosk, as well as research and development grant funding from the National Science Foundation.