With consumers rushing to buy the latest gadgets, the problem of what to do with discarded electronic products is becoming a growing environmental concern. Although electronic recycling is not yet as popular as paper and plastic recycling, two American college students are betting it can be just as lucrative.
YouRenew.com buys used electronic gadgets for recycling and, in some cases, for resale. The company was started two and a half years ago by two university students who saw electronic recycling as an environmentally friendly way of making money.
"Today, electronic recycling and reuse rates according to the EPA are still hovering around 10 percent, while it's upwards of 50 percent for papers, plastics, things of that nature," said Bob Casey. "Hopefully, we see those recycling rates really creep up, and I hope that we are on the leading edge of that," said co-founder Bob Casey
Analysts say the market for electronic recycling is expanding in the United States. Just two years old, YouRenew.com says business has grown over 200 percent.
Company CEO Guy Minetti says the biggest challenge is building awareness. "We still know there are many, many electronic devices that are sitting in businesses and closets in homes, in cupboards, just collecting dust," said Guy Minetti. "And building the awareness that one, people should recycle this for environmental purposes, as well as there is economic gain by doing it too."
As an incentive, the company offers cash for cell phones, smart phones and older laptops. Those that are no longer working go directly to the recycling bin. Others are stripped of data, reprogrammed and sold for a small profit.
Responding to consumer complaints, even Apple has decided to get into the recycling business, offering gift cards or discounts to customers who bring in select used electronics for recycling.