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“Sorry, I can’t pay you for this device, but I can donate $1 to one of the charities below if you decide to recycle it,” the EcoATM says.
I went through the process again, this time putting a still functional HTC Droid Incredible 2, one of the best phones I’ve ever owned, into the testing bay. It was hard to replace it last November and I felt pangs of sadness as I contemplated parting with it.
The EcoATM did a more thorough inspection of this device and determined that it could indeed pay me for it. It had me connect a cable for further testing. It took a few tries to properly position the device and the testing cable in the bay, and make sure the phone was unlocked. The EcoATM then had me input a code on the phone to allow it to read its serial number and check if it had been reported lost or stolen. I’m not totally sure if this actually worked because I never saw the serial number displayed on the phone’s screen, as the EcoATM said it would be.
“OK, I’m inspecting the device now,” the machine said. “This is my favorite part. I love finding a new home for old devices. I will search for the best price I can find.”
Meanwhile, more statistics: “There are nearly 6 billion mobile phone users worldwide. That is nearly 86 percent of the world’s population.”
The EcoATM judged my Incredible 2 to be in fair condition and offered me $3 for it. The same phone in perfect condition would have been worth $12. In a not-so-subtle nudge to sell, EcoATM noted that the estimated value of the device three months in the future would be $8.
I declined to sell because there were some files I still had to grab off the phone. I also held off on turning in the BlacBerry for recycling, but plan to do so soon.
I was at the EcoATM kiosk for about 20 minutes altogether, going through the process with the Incredible 2, the BlackBerry, and a feature phone I got in Kenya that also had zero residual value. If you weren’t trying to report on the process, I imagine you could move through it much quicker.
The reality is that in order for the system to work smoothly, and to maximize your potential payout, you need to do a few things before you get to the kiosk itself—removing any stickers and cases, and making sure your device can be powered on, is fully deactivated, and is free of personal data. But from there on, the process is convenient and easy enough.
And that’s key. The electronics industry has done a great job convincing us to upgrade our devices at shorter and shorter intervals. Now, we need to make recycling them the no-brainer choice.