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Ebay and Electronics Recycling

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 18 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Electronics Recycling Ebay Online

EBay, the online marketplace that allows people to sell their unwanted stuff or to sell goods as part of a cheap-to-run online business is more popular than ever. Launched in 1995, as an original idea by Pierre Omidyar, eBay has grown into a massive multinational organisation that is now available in 37 countries. Each one has its own eBay site. A total of 233 million people worldwide either sell or buy on eBay. In the UK, the British eBay site has 14 million people active in trading and there are in excess of 10 million items for sale at any one time. EBay reaches the height of its popularity in the few weeks before Christmas, and is the number 1 UK Christmas retailer.

Such a large organisation has some important responsibilities to society. It makes substantial profits but spends a lot of money improving the service it provides to sellers and buyers, and making sure that transactions are fair and safe. Recently, in autumn 2010, eBay in the USA made the decision to launch a new scheme to promote and encourage electronics recycling as part of its environmental initiative.

Recycling Mobile Phones

The main thrust of the initiative is to increase the recycling of old mobile phones – cell phones in the USA. EBay decided that the best way to do this was to allow people to sell their mobile phones to them – usually for cash, or just for a pre-paid postage to send it to a recycling centre. Simply by going on to an ‘instant sale’ site, you offer the mobile phone for sale to companies who are interested in recycling the valuable materials in the phone that can be retrieved and reused. Many mobile phone components are made from are rare metals, which are in short supply globally. We are in danger of running out of some of them and it is a shame to lose such a valuable commodity to landfill.

Once you fill in the details of the phone that you want to get rid of, you don’t have to wait for bids or offers. That’s why the site is called ‘instant sale’. You immediately get a cash offer for you phone, which you can accept. Payment is made to your account, and you get the postage paid to send the phone off to the buyer.

Money For Old Phones

For people who have a regularly renewed contract, this service is very useful as it allows them to recoup some serious cash for the fairly recent and modern mobile phone. Some phones end up being sold on to elsewhere in the world, supplying cheap mobile phones to promote mobile communications in developing countries, for example. Older phones may not be worth much, but it is worth getting a postal voucher to save the money on posting it off for recycling yourself.

For those people who hoard and hang on to their stuff, the site might be worth investigating. If you have and old brick mobile phone from the 1990s, you might be pleasantly surprised. Mobile phone technology moves so fast, that some of these old bricks are now considered ‘antiques’ by collectors and are becoming surprisingly valuable. A Nokia P-30 Brick phone recently sold on the US eBay site for nearly $450 – that’s over £280.

Recycling Other Electronic Devices

The eBay instant sale site also allows people to get cash for other old electronic items such as digital cameras, sat nav systems, laptops, PDAs, mp3 players and so on. You can still get money for the item, even if it’s broken as recycling works just as well on electronic devices that don’t work at all. The scheme is part of a national push in the USA to reduce the scale of electronic waste there. Countries in Europe, including the UK has a similar problem and it may be that we will see the instant sale site launched in Europe and the UK in the relatively near future.

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