EcoATM operates 20 freestanding devices (mostly in California) that are the first step in a global electronics exchange: You could be paid $50 for an old phone and someone across the world will buy it for $150. CMO Mark Bowles showed us how it works with mobile phones, its largest category.
It scans your old phone for model and condition, calculates how much it would fetch from a reseller, then pays 50% to 80% of that value on the spot.
Gently Used:This accounts for 70% of EcoATM revenue. The company sells to middlemen that resell phones on sites like Overstock and eBay. Their markup can go as high as 20%.
Scuffed Up: Sold to refurbishers that fix and resell to carriers in the developing world, regional American carriers, or insurance companies, with a markup of up to 50%.
Totally Busted: EcoATM pays 60 cents to 80 cents to prep and ship each phone to smelters, which salvage precious metals—gold, platinum, silver—for use in new electronics.
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A version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.