For Quick Cash, Drop Your Gadgets at an EcoATM

The new ATMs could change the way personal technology is recycled.

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If dropping off old cellphones and iPods were as easy as taking cash out of an ATM, recycling rates for these devices wouldn't be so absymal. Enter EcoATM, a machine that will buy your old gadgets for you, instantly determine their worth, and spit out cash or coupons for your effort. The very first EcoATM has been installed in Nebraska, but a larger rollout is slated for Texas, Washington state, Vermont, and San Diego this year.

Before EcoATM, the process of recycling gadgets responsibly could be time-consuming—and inertia kept many from giving up their old technology. The average household has five unused gadgets lying around. And if their owners were too busy to mail them in to a service like Gazelle or BuyMyTronics, they would be forgotten in a drawer, or simply be thrown away. But when high-tech toys make it into a landfill, they can leach hazardous chemicals into the ground and water—so that's why recyling these items is worth the extra effort. The extra spending money it will put in your pocket certainly won't hurt.

The EcoATM accepts phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, laptops and other devices for immediate appraisal, using a camera-based system to detect signs of wear and imperfection. Depending on your device's condition, you'll recieve cash or, like a CoinStar machine, gift certificates and coupons for participating stores. You also have the option to donate the device's worth to charity, and if your gadget is so beat up that it's worthless, EcoATM will plant a tree in your name. The company hopes to place the machine in big box stores across the country.

Until an EcoATM comes to a store near you, there are a few ways to recycle your old gadgets. You can take it back to the store where you purchased it, since many stores have free recycling programs. Manufacturers also take back old devices, and in some states, they're required to by law. You can also recycle it for cash through one of several e-cycling websites. There also may be a community drive to take back old gadgets near you—but be wary of scams.