Only 3 percent of cellphones worldwide get recycled; the rest end up leaking toxic metals into landfills. Now ecoATM has the first phonerecycling kiosk, which gobbles up phones and spits out an incentive to recycle: money.
To identify the phone's model, it visually scans the phone's exterior and compares the images with an ecoATM-maintained database of 4,000-plus mint-condition handsets. Then you hook up your phone to the appropriate cable, and it tests the phone's electronics and looks for cracked LCDs and cosmetic damage. The kiosk offers to erase your data and gives you cash based on the phone's value for resale.
The first 10 ecoATMs, which hit electronics stores, malls and college campuses last winter, have already recycled 33,000 phones, at an average payout of $9 per handset. The company plans to roll out 500 more kiosks next year and expand to more types of portable electronics.