Phone recycling machines set to appear on street corners

How many old phones and other gadgets do you have sitting around at the back of a drawer? You could soon turn them into instant ready cash – and incidentally help the planet – simply by dropping them into a slot.

EcoATM has been trialling its machines in several locations, and has now won investment from Coinstar and a grant from the National Science Foundation to advance the technology and get the machines out more widely. It plans to widen the range of devices the machines can handle.

The kiosks collect used cellphones and other devices, check their condition and pay out accordingly.

An EcoATM scans a device, works out what model it is, and pops out a suitable cable; the customer then connects the device so that the kiosk can make sure it works.

“EcoATM’s systems must quickly learn and then accurately identify thousands of different models of phones and other devices and then precisely assess any cosmetic or internal damage in order for the system to work,” says ecoATM chairman and CEO, Tom Tullie.

“This requires us to continually push the boundaries on a unique combination of artificial intelligence and non-traditional machine vision technology. We are very happy that the USPTO has awarded these efforts with our first important patent and are extremely grateful to the NSF for their support as we refine and expand this technology.”

It then analyzes the exterior for damage, offers a price based on secondary market values and pays the seller in cash or store credit.

So far, in its trials, EcoATM says it’s collected tens of thousands of devices, while paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars. It says about half of what’s collected is resold, with the other half recycled.