Environmental groups have not been shy in warning the public about the dangers of throwing away old mobile phones. Like all electronic items, cell phones sitting in landfills can damage the soil, which can then cause further-reaching effects.
Not that many people are inclined to throw away their cell phones, anyway. Most unused devices sit in drawers, collecting dust as their owners justify them as emergency devices, in case they drop their main device in a cup of water. Still, I’m willing to bet most people would be willing to recycle their phones under two conditions.
First, they get paid for it. Second, it’s an easy, convenient process. That might come true soon, as one company plans to release cell phone recycling ATMs over the next two years.
The company, ecoATM, has created an ATM-like kiosk which can evaluate a cell phone on the spot. A camera inspects the surface for any screen cracks or missing buttons, while a data port cord examines the inside to make sure the phone is in proper working order. Given this information — plus, of course, the make and model — the kiosk can make a snap judgement as to the phone’s value. If the customer decides that’s a fair price, he or she can drop the phone and collect the cash.
The linked Reuters article compares ecoATm to Coinstar, a kiosk frequently found in supermarkets which lets people turn their loose change into paper money. While the idea is the same in spirit — allow people to take things they wouldn’t otherwise use and pay them for it — in practice I doubt they’re comparable.
Everyone has loose change lying around, and even after they change it in at a Coinstar kiosk they continue to accumulate it. While there might be an initial wave of people trading in their cell phones for a few bucks, the supply could run out quickly, since people tend to upgrade cell phones along with their contracts, every two years.
Still, we’ll get a chance to see if this will work soon enough. The company plans to install 11 in the Midwest, San Diego, Boston, Dallas, and Seattle soon, with a goal of 150 deployments by year’s end. Their 2011 goal is even more ambitious, at 700 units. That number, I’m guessing, could change depending on the kiosk’s initial success or failure.
You can check out more information about ecoATM at http://www.ecoatm.com/.