ecoATM kiosk scans used gadget, pays owner

The maker of the ecoATM, an electronics take-back and recycling kiosk, raises money from Coinstar and others to launch in more retail locations.

Following a financing deal for ecoATM, you may be able to clear out the digital skeletons in your closet on a trip to the mall.

San Diego-based ecoATM, which makes a kiosk for taking back used electronics, today said it raised $14.4 million in equity and debt to launch its product in more places. One of the investors is Coinstar, which makes automated retail products, including coin collection machines for supermarkets and other stores.

ecoATM was started about two years ago by former wireless industry executives to build an automatic system for trading in electronic gadgets no longer in use, such as mobile phones. With so many new gadgets coming out, e-waste is the fastest-growing category of waste and it's estimated there are 3 billion electronic devices in the U.S., many of which are not used but are still working.

The consumer uses the ecoATM by putting a device, such as a phone, into a tray in the kiosk. It scans the device until it's recognized. The machine then releases a power cord to check the electrical system. Once it's fully checked out, it tells the owner how much it's worth, which can be redeemed for cash, a gift card, or a donation.

The company put in a prototype kiosk in a furniture store in Nebraska in fall 2009 and has since collected tens of thousands of phones, music players, game systems, game DVDs and cartridges, digital cameras, GPS devices, and laptop PCs, according to the company.

The company says that it complies with state e-waste recycling laws and generates environmental reports for retailers.

ecoATM also announced today that it has received a National Science Foundation grant and its first patent for its recycling kiosk.