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According to Xconomy, San Diego’s EcoATM, which operates automated kiosks that enable consumers to recycle their mobile devices, says it has raised $40 million in debt financing from Boston’s Falcon Investment Advisors to expand beyond its existing network of 300 kiosks in 20 states.
In the statement, EcoATM chairman and CEO Tom Tullie says, “There’s still a large percentage of the country that doesn’t have access to a convenient recycling solution for their mobile phones and other personal portable electronic devices. We raised this money to help us deploy ecoATMs nationwide and help people recycle their old phones, tablets, or MP3 players, regardless of where they live.”
EcoATM plans to install an additional 600 to 700 kiosks by the end of the year. (Information about the locations of EcoATM kiosks is here.)
The technology needed to recycle mobile devices is more complicated than you might expect. Each kiosk uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to scan, identify, and evaluate each device being recycled. Once identified, the kiosk checks spot prices to determine how much cash or store credit to offer for each trade-in. EcoATM takes a cut from each deal.
EcoATM says it resells about 60 percent of its collected devices and responsibly recycles the rest.
In a note last week, an EcoATM spokeswoman told me the startup had added technology that enabled its kiosks to accept tablets for recycling.
The company has deployed most of its kiosks in large shopping malls located in big cities. The new financing is intended to get ecoATMs into smaller cities and other areas where foot traffic is high.
EcoATM has raised more than $31 million in venture capital funding since 2008, when three out-of-work techies identified a potential business in recycling cell phones. EcoATM tested the idea with a prototype in an Omaha, NE, shopping mall in late 2009. Since then, the company says it has paid out millions of dollars to hundreds of thousands of customers, and has diverted hundreds of thousands of devices with toxic components from American landfills.
The company’s venture investors include San Diego’s Tao Ventures and Moore Venture Partners, along with Coinstar, Claremont Creek Ventures, PI Holdings, AKS Capital, and Koh Boon Hwee.