Why Aren’t People Willing To Recycle Their Cellphones for $$$?

Marty Cooper  Cellphone InventorSami Grover over at Treehugger.com posted an interesting article about an unsuccessful cellphone recycling program in the UK started by O2, a cellphone network provider. “Brits Get Good Money For Recycling Phones. Many Don’t Bother.” details how earning up to $140 isn’t enough to motivate people to recycle their no-longer used cellphones. Here’s some data on the UK provided by O2:

    • 17.5 million of these gadgets are thrown out each year
    • One on six (16%) who think that recycling is not worth it (same as the percentage that did recycle)
    • Almost a third (31%) who are not aware that the services exist
    • Almost one in ten (9%) can’t be bothered

And the numbers are worse in the US where 141 million mobile devices were sold in 2009 and the recycling rate was only 8%. The unused majority will end up in a drawer and gather dust which makes me wonder – why do we need to recycle our old cellphones? Yes, cellphones are loaded with toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, beryllium, arsenic, and cadmium – but the phones are just sitting in a box or drawer and not finding the trash. Probably the best answer is that our old cellphones have parts that can be reused cutting down the need for new raw materials and their toxic chemicals can be safely extracted during the recycling process.

“Jubbling as I say and not as I do Jubbling”?
I’m as guilty if not more than anyone out there. My stash of six previously-loved cellphones occupy a tiny space in a drawer so I have no incentive to recycle them. They’re worthless to cellphone recyclers like Nextworth but to me, they still hold value in the electronic hoarding sense because I spent anywhere from $200 to $500 on each of these buggers. I won’t put them in the trash but I’m not giving my never gonna use again cellphones up easily.

That’s why I think the success of any cellphone recycling program should not be based on the highest return you might receive for your old phone but the lowest that you are guaranteed. Kind of a like a cash for clunkers thing through cellphone service providers where any recycled phone will get you a flat credit toward your bill. The incentive goes both ways here – service provider receives (or keeps) a customer and you get a guaranteed value for cellphones you don’t use.


Greenpeace Guide to Green Electronics

Greenpeace Guide to Green Electronics
The “Greenpeace Guide to Green Electronics” has been out for about a month and the latest release, timed for the CES Expo, follows the same direction as earlier releases. Gather data from publicly available sources, Corporate Responsibllity Reports etc., and put it in a USA Today’ish format that makes it easy to read. My issue with the Guide to Green Electronics is that the difference between “Partially Good” and “Partially Bad” is “Extremely Vague”. Dell Computer, for example, receives a “Partially Bad” rating of +1 even though from the information in the guide, Dell is moving in a direction of being BFR/PVC free. And is Microsoft really a bigger electronics polluter than Panasonic? You’ve seen their toilets – you be the judge.

I will always try to give Greenpeace the benefit of the doubt but it’s difficult to find value in their “Guide to Green Electronics” report. It’s based solely on publicly available information. This is not their forte and it shows. The only thing I could compare it to would be… um… if the CEA responded by rating Greenpeaces’ anti-whaling efforts based on information gleaned from the Discovery Channel.

Download the Greenpeace Guide to Green Electronics.


ecoATM: Where Jubbling Meets Capitalism

A guy walks into a bar with a pile of crap in his hands and he says to the bartender – “look at what I almost stepped in!”

ecoATM WebsiteSan Diego, CA  10/1/2009 – I’m not sure how to classify this new Jubbling concept out of ecoATM.  It’s founded on “green” ideals that we need to automate our processes for recycling old electronics and specifically cell phones.  Great idea.  But the best way ecoATM decided to do this was through a large ATM being placed in a retail space and I think that is where they’ve lost me and some of their Jubbling.  Their goal is admirable but the delivery system they’ve created, the actual ecoATM, is truly “back-assward” and seems to defeat the purpose of what it’s trying to do and that is to be Jubbling.

One of the team members, Seth Heine, founded two other companies for recycling cellphones – Collective Good and GreenPhone.com.  Both sites operate on the same principles as NextWorth and handle your cellphone recycling via the mail.  So why make the move to ecoATM?  I’m not really sure but the only ecoATM advantage of the ecoATM system is that it might get more traffic and recycle more phones due to our high immediate need to receive value for an old cellphone.  The irony is that it might also be a good way to fence a stolen cellphone.

Now I don’t want to bash ecoATM too much because again, it’s Jubbling and I’m hoping the founders intentions were noble and rooted in doing something positive.  It looks like Seth Heine has been Jubbling for a while but I’m not sure of his compadres on the ecoATM team; all smarter than me, but they seem to be standing behind the “green” movement like it’s a corporate shield.   I can only imagine what their executive meetings are like when you bring a group together made up of members looking at the “collective good” sitting across from members who are all about the bottomline.

I am willing to offer my help, unpaid as usual, to the folks at ecoATM for future versions of their product.  We’ll call it ecoATM .2 and it will consist of a cardboard box with a person standing in it holding a pad of post-its, a pen, 12 potted saplings and a paper garbage bag for your cell phone.  ecoATM .2 will go through a week of training on the cellphones they’ll take back and what they’re worth.  If your phone has value, you’ll get a store credit from our guy.  If not, you’ll get a sapling.

Check out their website for when an ecoATM [or ecoATM .2] will be in your area and see what you think. It’s seems to be kind of a Jubbling oxymoron and for now, I’m sticking with NextWorth until I’m proven wrong.  They’ll recycle/reuse more than just cellphones and they seem to have a more effective business model.