We recently launched a gadget buyback program that promises to pay more for used and broken Apple devices than Gazelle, Walmart and even Apple itself. This post is about the startup company we partnered with to bring you this service.
A college friend who bought a new phone and was about to trash a defunct iPhone 3G sparked the idea for MyPhones Unlimited, a smartphone recycling service that Cult of Mac recently partnered with.
“Two main thoughts came to mind,” says MyPhones Unlimited founder Gabe Trumbo. “One is that that can’t be good for that to just be thrown away, there has got to be a better way to recycle it. And beyond that, I’m sure there’s still some value in it.”
He was right. Trading in his friend’s phone himself, Trumbo got a bigger chunk of change than he expected — and immediately saw a market coupled to an important problem.
Thar’s gold in them iPhones
For every million cellphones that get recycled there can be recovered 35,000 pounds of valuable copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA also says a metric ton of circuit boards contains anywhere from 40 to 800 times the gold than can be mined from a ton of ore in the United States (and also 30 to 40 times the copper).
Beyond the value of the materials contained in phones and computers, there’s also the harm they can pose to the environment. Toxic chemicals and metals like lead, nickel, mercury, LCD fluid and plenty of others usually wind up in landfills, seeping into the ground and contaminating water. There are countless related issues, like the energy wasted manufacturing a device that gets thrown away too quickly, and the social consequences in places where often-unsafe economies sprout up amid piles of (often illegally) trashed electronics.
Giving consumers an incentive to recycle
Companies like MyPhones Unlimited help mitigate these problems by creating an incentive for consumers to do the right thing when the time comes to ditch their old devices: The old products get recycled or refurbished for others to use, and their former owners get a little cash in the process.
“I figured I could both create a company that made a profit and also help keep a lot of those devices from landfills and from just getting tossed away where they do nothing but harm,” says Trumbo. “They’re doing it mostly for the money side, not for the recycling side, but it makes an impact both sides.”
MyPhones Unlimited handles refurbishing and disassembly in-house, which allows the company to offer buyback prices that outpace larger operations and big-box stores. MyPhones Unlimited can replace a screen, but for disposing of dangerous LCD chemicals or recycling valuable metals, the company has partnered with outside operations that effectively and responsibly handle those materials. They say there’s 20 percent or so of a phone, the battery for example, that is truly dangerous and requires specialist handling.
Straight outta Fayetteville
MyPhones Unlimited was formed four years ago in Fayetteville, Arkansas, right by the University of Arkansas and its more than 25,000 students. American college students are among the most avid users of technology, and highly likely to break or need to replace their devices, making them the perfect first customers of a business that handles defunct tech.
After becoming the go-to drop-off spot for Fayetteville — the city even has a contract to send in its old electronics to be processed — the service is ready to grow.
In a first for the company, MyPhones Unlimited recently partnered with Cult of Mac so our readers all over the country, not just in Fayetteville, can send in their old devices for cash back — and an assurance that they’ll be disposed of properly.
Within the first week, Trumbo says the company received about 400 device submissions — turns out there are lots of people with old devices gathering dust that they’d rather turn into cash. But with only a small percentage of devices actually getting recycled — only 11 percent of cellphones last year, for example — there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“You’ve seen the industry really explode over the last few years,” says Trumbo. “We’re pretty progressive in the college town that we’re based out of, but most other towns in our state and, I think, in the country, aren’t doing a great job of pioneering recycling.”
iPhone buyback and recycling
Trumbo and his startup team hope what they’re doing will be emblematic of a larger shift in consciousness about e-waste, which is a problem that’s growing by leaps and bounds as technology manufacturers push hard to meet growing demand for electronic devices. Awareness of the seriousness of the problem of e-waste, and the responsibility we all have to be part of the solution, is key.
“I just don’t think it’s something people are aware of,” Trumbo says. “Recycling aluminum cans or milk jugs is something that has been pushed in the media for decades, whereas recycling e-waste is really something that’s only come about in the last like five years or something. It also causes more harm than an aluminum can or something like that, so maybe people that are willing to throw out their old Coke bottle wouldn’t be as willing to throw away their old laptop if they knew the damage it could cause.”
Turn your old devices into cash, not trash
Got a drawer full of old devices that you’d like to turn into cash? Or even an iPhone 6 Plus that’s just so 2014?
Visit Cult of Mac’s buyback page and find out just how much you can get for your old iPhones, MacBooks, iPads and iPads. Our program pays top dollar. In most cases, we beat the competition.