Turning old gadgets into cash

Nature of Business Radio

Turning old gadgets into cash

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

If you're like me, you have at least one old electronic gadget sitting unused in a drawer, closet or bureau. I think about getting rid of these gadgets during the occasional cleanup, but it takes some time to recycle them – and I know I'm not supposed to throw them in the trash – so I end up putting it off. And the computers and phones stay where they are, just gathering dust.

Gazelle could be the answer to an electronics-recycling procrastinator's prayers. Okay, that might be a little dramatic. (I'm typing this at 36,000 turbulent feet, slightly sleepy a result of the wonderful GreenBiz VERGE DC conference for the past few days.) But in all seriousness, Gazelle CEO Israel Ganot – also founder and president -- and his team have figured out a simple and elegant model for us to recommercialize our electronic products and – what's more – get paid for doing so.

An iPad 2 in perfect condition, for instance, will fetch you $300 right now from Gazelle. That's a lot of money.  These used products are then sold again, keeping them out of landfills and making them available to people who may not be able to afford to latest models of phones, computers, mp3 players and the like.

The idea for Gazelle started a few years back, when Israel tried to recycle a couple of his BlackBerry phones, only to be told he would have to pay for the privilege. He was astounded: After all, he knew he could get some money for the phones on eBay. But he really just wanted to dispose of them responsibly, and paying to be able to do the right thing seemed silly.

It was his lightbulb moment. He decided to start a company that pays consumers for their used gadgets and resells them; that makes it easy by sending customers a pre-stamped envelope once they register their gadget online; and that sends customers prompt payments – usually within a week – via check, PayPal or Amazon gift card.

Now, six years after it was founded, Gazelle is seeing its business grow by leaps and bounds.  Last year, Gazelle took in about 300,000 trade-ins. This year, the numbers will well exceed those of last year. One indication of future growth came just a few weeks ago: The company saw a 500 percent increase in iPad trade-ins when the new iPad was announced. 

Considering that the average consumer typically keeps cellphones for only 12-18 months – and that the secondary market for Apple products, in particular, is insatiable – Gazelle isn’t likely to have any problem living up to its motto to “Keep it Moving.” And it's not alone: Other companies also have gotten involved in reselling and recycling cellphones, including eRecyclingCorps, Communications Wireless Group, ReCellular, EcoPhones, Think Recycle and many more.

It gives me great pleasure to continually speak with business leaders out there who are doing good while making money.  The important social aspect of doing business that isn't lost on Israel, who – like many business leaders nowadays – sees no separation between his personal and professional life.  In his words, “I wouldn’t be in the business that is only about debits and credits and dollars and cents. It has got to have a broader mission. We are having an impact. It is something that I feel good about.”

He should. Gazelle has helped keep 600,000 gadgets out of the e-waste stream since 2006.  And he will almost certainly be able to add a few more zeros to that number soon.

George Papoulias edited this podcast. Photo of cellphones courtesy of Bakalusha via Shutterstock.