If you told somebody from 20 years ago that we’d be able to fit full-fledged computers in our front pockets, they’d think you were a science fiction writer. And yet, today, we take our smartphones for granted. Trying to explain to that very same person that we can also take our old phones and toss them into a robotic recycling bin for cash would be challenging as well. After all, most consumers today aren’t even aware of that technology.
But the technology to instantly recycle (and receive cash for) your smartphone and other electronic devices does exist. These electronic devices can be found in many public spaces; they’re known as “ecoATMS”.
What is an EcoATM?
An ecoATM is the specific brand name of the most prolific electronic device trade-in kiosk on the market but there are many different brands under different companies. In short, ecoATMs are electronic kiosks set up in public spaces for the purposes of taking your used electronics.
Most ecoATMs claim to take any electronic device or accessory for the purposes of recycling them. However, their primary use is in the buyback of your used smartphone or tablet for cash. It may seem like science fiction, but these machines will analyze your device, provide you with a monetary value in the form of a trade-in quote, and should you accept that quote, will take your device and spit out cash.
EcoATM is owned by the popular electronics buyback company Gazelle and they are headquartered in San Diego. From their website:
Headquartered in San Diego, California, ecoATM LLC. is the only automated kiosk that collects unwanted or used cell phones, tablets and MP3 players for instant cash. ecoATM kiosks accept devices of any year or condition. We buy back cell phones and other mobile devices and tablets. Our kiosks provide a safe, secure way for consumers to recycle used electronic devices. We utilize extensive security features and processes to uphold a safe and secure selling experience for each customer. ecoATM sets the standard for the highest level of transparency and cooperation with law enforcement.
How do EcoATMs Work?
EcoATM has a great video online explaining their process. Like most buyback programs, the process is straightforward. However, the greatest benefit of using an EcoATM kiosk is that you don’t have to worry about shipping your device away. EcoATM touts a “simple three-step process.”
Place Your Device in an ecoATM test station
Placing your smartphone into an ecoATM isn’t a big deal—you can remove the device at any time. The machine is simply looking to analyze your phone or tablet to generate an instant cash quote.
ecoATM will Examine Your Device & Give You the Best Price
Once your device has been placed in the machine, the ecoATM will examine the device while asking you some simple questions about its make, model, and cosmetic condition. It then provides you with what it considers the “current value on the market” for your device.
If You Agree to Sell it, You Will Receive Cash on the Spot
If you agree to sell your device, ecoATM will drop the device into its collection bin and send some cash your way, just like the ATM we’re all familiar with.
How Are Devices Recycled?
What happens to an individual device once it’s been taken by ecoATM isn’t easy to track. However, the company explains on their FAQ that they reuse any devices they can and recycle the rest:
The majority of the devices we receive are reused, while the remaining devices are responsibly recycled. Almost all consumer electronics contain toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic and a broad variety of other materials that pose a threat to the environment and our health. The best thing we can do for the environment is to extend the usage of existing devices as long as possible so that there is no need to build new devices to take their place. After a device is no longer usable, the next best thing we can do is to responsibly reclaim materials.
On the company’s “going green” website, they dive a little deeper into their recycling practices:
ecoATM’s processing warehouse is certified to the Responsible Recycling (R2) standard. R2 is an EPA recognized environmental, health, safety, and security standard for the electronics recycling industry. R2’s principles and guidelines are designed to promote and assess responsible practices for electronics recyclers. These guidelines include the OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001 standards. These certifications demonstrate ecoATM’s commitment to the environment as well as the health and safety of employees and the public.
Impressively, the company has reclaimed quite a bit of material from their ecoATM buyback program:
In 2019, ecoATM hit the major milestone of recycling over 21 million devices in its span of operation. The collection of these 21 million devices has enabled the recovery or reuse of:
- 1,575 pounds of gold
- 16,212 pounds of silver
- 741,300 pounds of copper
In short, it seems like the concept of the ecoATM works, not just as a great, profitable business model but as an avenue toward cultivating a more environmentally conscious public.
Where Can I Find an EcoATM?
Luckily, ecoATM has a convenient location finder for all of your ecoATM needs. Many kiosks wind up in malls or at Walmart locations, so, chances are if you’re near a mall or a Walmart then you may be near an ecoATM. You can visit their location tracker here.
The ecoATM website also has a comprehensive tutorial page for preparing your myriad of devices for trade-in. The last thing you want is to trade-in your phone only to realize you never disabled your personal account on the phone, leaving your identity compromised.
What Devices does the ecoATM Take?
It seems that the folks at ecoATM have no qualms with taking any device you throw at it. However, you won’t always receive cash for a device. Yet, there are many types of electronics that they do exchange cash for. Here’s the list of accepted devices from their website:
- Broken iPhones
- Other Apple products
- Android tablet devices
- Amazon readers like Kindle Fire
- Motorola cell phones and smartphones
- HTC cell phones and smartphones
- Blackberry personal data devices
- Samsung Devices including the Galaxy S series, Note and more
If you have a device that is not on their list the company will still take it, they just won’t pay for you it. EcoATM is still a great local solution for recycling your unwanted electronics.
How Do EcoATMs Compare to Other Buyback Programs?
Comparing an ecoATM to online buyback programs almost seems unfair. While the business models are similar and both concepts exist within the same marketplace, they fall under two very different use-case scenarios. ecoATMs, like many other types of kiosks, exist out of pure convenience.
Think of the price of a can of soda from a vending machine versus in a grocery store. The vending machine price can be upwards of three times the normal cost. Yet, we’ll still grab a drink from a machine from time-to-time due to the timing, location, and convenience.
It’s clear that ecoATMs run off of that same model. They’re meant to dazzle consumers with their novelty and act as an impulsive action, just like a vending machine. When you run the numbers, it’s clear that ecoATM, while convenient, fun, and helpful to the recycling cause, simply doesn’t compare to online programs.
Compare the iPhone 7, Verizon, 128GB in near-mint condition. Here’s what ecoATM is willing to buy this iPhone for:
And here’s what our instant quote is here at BuyBack Boss:
When faced with getting either $55 back for your iPhone 7 or $200 back, what would you choose? The answer is obvious. Yet, ecoATM is still a successful venture, so there must be a market for the service even if the way they value your used electronics is on the low end.
Buyback Programs Are Great & They’re Always Convenient
When it comes down to it, there wouldn’t be a market for buyback programs if they weren’t intuitive and straightforward solutions to getting rid of your used smart device. By their very nature, a buyback program can only be a success if it’s easy. While you do need to ship out your device with services like Buyback Boss, we make it as easy as possible by providing you with a prepaid shipping label. All that’s left for you to do is scrounge up an old Amazon shipping box and scrunch up some circular ads from your local supermarket for packaging.
While we’re not able to beat the convenience of a mall kiosk, we certainly beat the valuation. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself an important question—what do you value more? Is a little more convenience more important than an extra $150? We aren’t ones to judge, so we’ll allow you to make that determination on your own.
Whatever you do, we’re just happy that you aren’t chucking your used smartphone into the trash. Recycling is important and even more important is the practice of reuse. Every smart device you trade-in is a device that can be refurbished or cleanly dismantled, so we’re still happy even if you decide to try out an ecoATM!