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Survey examines consumers' mobile device recycling habits

Electronics

A survey sponsored by ecoATM reveals that less than half of device owners recycle their unwanted phones and tablets.

SDB Staff April 23, 2014

The proliferation of new cellphones and tablets has led to a growing glut of “e-waste” piling up in people’s homes as well as a lack of understanding about what to do with broken, unwanted or outdated devices, according to a survey released by San Diego-based ecoATM, the nationwide network of automated electronics recycling kiosks.

According to the survey, 57 percent of American device owners have idle cellphones in their homes, yet only 22 percent say they have previously recycled cell phones they no longer use.

The ecoATM Device Survey was conducted by Kelton Research from March 10 to 17 and polled 1,018 nationally representative Americans age 18 and older who own a smartphone, cellphone, MP3 player or tablet.

“Electronic waste is the fastest growing segment of our waste stream, and it’s a problem that’s only getting worse as more and more new phones and tablets are coming to market each year,” says Mark Bowles, founder and chief marketing Oofficer of ecoATM. “Consumers are looking for easy and convenient ways to recycle or sell their unwanted devices, and we must continue to shift behavior when it comes to the responsible disposal of electronics that are no longer being used.”

Highlights of ecoATM’s consumer survey include:

  • Nearly four in 10 device owners (39 percent) have at least two cellphones, if not more, collecting dust at home, yet less than half have sold, recycled or given their old smartphones to someone else after using it (49 percent).
  • Less than half of device owners would consider recycling old gadgets (46 percent) even though most believe that recycling is good for the environment (86 percent), safe (80 percent) and worth doing (77 percent).
  • When upgrading a device, 12 percent of device owners would consider throwing their old gadget away in the garbage and nearly one in three (30 percent) would just store it somewhere in their homes.
  • Slightly more than half of device owners know that it’s possible to recycle unwanted devices in drop-off bins inside cellphone provider stores (56 percent) or online trade-in programs (55 percent), while 20 percent know that automated recycling kiosks exist. That said, more than one in 10 (12 percent) incorrectly believe that placing old devices in any recycling bin (such as a curbside bin) could be a viable option.

EcoATM’s approximately 900 kiosks, which are in shopping malls and select retailers nationwide, recycle consumer electronics, including mobile phones, tablets and MP3 players, and provide instant cash payments as an incentive to recycle.

EcoATM says its kiosks accept devices of any era or condition. The company uses a worldwide auction system to offer consumers competitive prices depending upon condition, which can include a few hundred dollars for newer smartphones. EcoATM says it can find a second life for 75 percent of devices collected. For the remaining 25 percent, ecoATM partners with certified electronics recyclers to ensure those materials are responsibly reused and recycled, the company says. 

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