Business Idea: Deploy a network of self-service kiosks that enables shoppers to recycle unwanted electronic gear safely

Company: ecoATM


Business Idea: Deploy a network of self-service kiosks that enables shoppers to recycle unwanted electronic gear safely, starting with cell phones, and offering shoppers cash, gift cards, or the ability to donate the value of their cell phones to charity in exchange for the phone.

Pitch: The average household has five to six outdated cell phones tucked away, worth an estimated $12.2 billion in secondary markets or in recyclable material. While many phones are eventually sold or recycled (ReCellular processes 400,000 used cell phones per month), many are not, which results in an environmental hazard. Many discarded phones go into landfills and pose a danger due to the presence of high levels of lead, cadmium, copper, and other hazardous material. With the average life span of cell phones shrinking to about 18 months, this problem is expected to quickly become worse.

ecoATM has devised a solution that not only allows the owners of used cell phones to get a fair price for their phones but has the potential to make a meaningful impact on the number of cell phones that enter landfills. The company has devised a kiosk that can quickly assess the value of a used cell phone, and pay the owner of the phone on the spot the value of the phone. It works like this. A cell phone owner approaches the machine, which looks like an ATM machine and follows a set of visual prompts. The cell phone is placed in a tray and is plugged into a universal adapter. The machine, following sophisticated computer algorithms developed by ecoATM, inspects the exterior of the phone for flaws and damage, and the interior of the phone for the condition of the software. A price is then offered, which the owner of the phone has the discretion to accept or reject. If the price is accepted, the phone falls into a lower bin in the machine and the user is paid the offer price in cash, a store gift card, or can elect to donate the value of the phone to charity. Once in ecoATM’s possession, about half the phones are sold into secondary markets (both in the United States and in other countries) and half are sold to material reclamation companies that are carefully screened by ecoATM. Offshore markets include emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Africa, and the Caribbean. Cell phone usage is booming in emerging markets and demand for used phones is high. Any private data that remains on phones is erased before they’re sold.

ecoATM is working with retailers to secure high-traffic locations for its machines. A benefit to retailers is increased traffic in their locations (due to the draw of the ecoATM machine) and the ability to dispense gift cards for their stores through the machines. ecoATM sees cell phones as its point of market entry. It is working on similar automated processes to purchase used computers, iPods, and other electronic devices. 

Reference: Entrepreneurship