EcoATM Raises $14.4M for Mass Production of Electronics Recycling Kiosks

2/16/11Follow @bvbigelow

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the Consumer Electronics Association, EcoATM says U.S. consumers buy about 500 million new electronic gadgets each year. As manufacturers tempt consumers to upgrade to newer models with improved features, the average household now owns 26 different consumer electronic devices. That’s a nationwide total of nearly 3 billion devices, many of which are no longer in use.

Tullie told me in December that cell phones and other handheld electronics usually contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury, as well as brominated plastics. EcoATM offers consumers a convenient alternative to simply (and usually illegally) discarding their unwanted cell phones. The company says unwanted devices are properly recycled, and EcoATM salvages some precious metals from the devices that can’t be sold to refurbishers. “There’s about 65 cents worth of gold, platinum, and palladium in every phone,” Tullie said. “We get about $3.50 a pound.”

EcoATM’s kiosks currently cost about $20,000 apiece to build, “but they pay for themselves really quickly,” Tullie said.

EcoATM screen grab

The company has built more than a dozen prototype kiosks, which have been installed in shopping malls throughout San Diego, in the Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, and in Kansas City, MO, and Seattle, according to Mark Bowles, an EcoATM co-founder and chief marketing officer. EcoATM says it already has collected tens of thousands of devices at its trial locations over the past year, and provided the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in return.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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