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Electronic recycler makes a plug for unwanted cell phones

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Recycling old electronic gadgets – dated flip phones, 3-megapixel digital cameras, tired laptops – is often so inconvenient that the gadgets end up forgotten in junk drawers. Gizmogul, an electronic recycling company based in Sharon, wants to help consumers dispose of this digital detritus, especially unwanted cell phones. And one of the best ways to get people to recycle is to provide them with an incentive, said Gizmogul co-founder Cory Schneider. Gizmogul pays the consumer 90 percent of the phone’s worth based on its resale value or precious metal content, with a percentage of proceeds going to charity. “Cell phones are among the most frequently purchased electronic devices, so getting people in the habit of recycling their old ones is a huge step in the right direction,” said Schneider, who is also affiliated with CJ Environmental, a precious metals and scrap refiner, which extracts gold, silver, platinum, and palladium that have been recovered from discarded cell phones, tablets, and PDAs.

Q: What happens to a typical cell phone if they’re not recycled?
A: Every day in the U.S., around 426,000 cell phones are discarded, usually when people upgrade to a newer model. Personally for me, before I knew about reselling or recycling my phone, I’d stick it in a drawer. At one time, I had a drawer full of 10 different phones. Even worse is when someone throws them in the trash, because they leach hazardous chemicals. And although we also recycle tablets and laptops and other electronic devices, 90 percent of the business we do is with cell phones. Consumers are not driven to change their tablets in the same way that they are with their phones – people seem more attached to wanting the latest, greatest version of a smartphone.

Q: How does Gizmogul work?
A: If you have an iPhone 4 that you’re trying to sell, for example, we’ll give you an estimate on what it’s worth. If it’s resalable, it gets a second life; if needs to be fixed first, technicians will put on a new screen or put in a new circuit board. If it’s deemed electronic waste, its value is based on the scrap value of the material. We provide a shipping package and label, compensate you for the phone, then it’s shipped to our warehouse where it’s sorted, processed and refined. Data storing devices are wiped clean of all existing information. We recycle about 15 to 20 thousands pounds of cell phones a month.

Q: There’s a picture on your Facebook of hundreds of Kindles in bins – what’s the story behind these discarded devices?
A: An online food ordering company sent us 600 Kindle Fire tablets because they were switching over to Google Nexus tablets. We also get bulk shipments from schools that are upgrading their systems; these can be pounds and pounds of computer boards or computer towers.

Q: What’s the value of the metals contained in a mobile phone?
A: About 65-80 percent of the material content of a mobile phone can be recycled and reused; the metal is shredded and then separated. The value of the metal – copper, silver, platinum, gold and aluminum – is determined by the precious metal market, of course. Ever since the economy has taken a hit, the value of precious metals has taken off.

Q: Do you have any tips for getting the most value out of your unwanted cell phone?
A: Trade in early. The longer you wait the more your phone will depreciate. Also, before sending it in to Gizmogul, unlock it with your service provider. This will increase the value of your phone instantly. If it’s an iPhone, make sure it doesn't have iCloud activated on it –remove it from your phone. We will even help you do all of this if you call us. Finally, include any accessories like case or charger. Most companies don't pay you more for your phone when you send in extra accessories, but we will most definitely bump up your payment.

Q: What are the different types of recyclers in the industry?
A: There are all sorts of niches, from battery recycling specialists; copper wire, LCDs, and more. We also do recycling of network systems, telecom instruments, diamonds and other jewelry, as well as dental scrap from pulled teeth. This might sound a little weird, but dentists do keep that material and look to cash out on it. Another cool one we do is X-ray film recycling. It doesn’t exist much these days, because everything is digital now, but traditional X-rays films have silver in them. We chemically extract this silver out of the film.

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