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Entrepreneurial Guide to Profiting from e-Waste

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/31/2011

Starting a small business that gets cash for e-waste removal, disposal and reuse is a good way of becoming an entrepreneur on a shoestring budget. Would-be entrepreneurs with a modicum of technical savvy and some marketing know-how should take note.

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    Electronic Waste Classification

    Prior to putting into practice ways of earning money for e-waste, it is useful to define the scope of the term. In simplest terms, this kind of trash consists of electronic machinery that is either broken, outdated or near the end of its predefined usefulness. Under this umbrella there are household electronics, such as televisions and car stereos, as well as office and industrial machinery.

    Most notable under this category are copiers, fax machines and computers as well as their various peripherals. It is interesting to note that consumers are somewhat uncertain what to do with their electronic waste, especially considering that there are much-publicized injunctions against disposing of televisions or computers via the regularly scheduled trash pickups.

    As a matter of fact, CalRecycle estimates that about 75 percent of unused electronics are now in storage, simply because consumers do not know what to do with them. It is plain that this is a potential money-maker for a savvy entrepreneur.

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    Recycling Services, Trash Collection and eCycling

    Cities across the country now offer regularly scheduled trash collection days for electronic products. These pickup dates may be coupled with hazardous trash pickups for chemical waste as well. Recycling services that specialize in consumer electronics are another option for consumers. To prevent e-waste from hurting the planet, manufacturers and government agencies cooperate by devising programs that allow for the proper disposal and recycling of still functioning items, such as cell phones or iPods.

    A program by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) terms this as ‘eCycling’ and defines it as the practice of passing on still useful consumer electronics to volunteer organizations or EPA partners that will then refurbish and donate the items. The downside to recycling and eCycling is the requirement of having electronics in still usable condition.

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    Getting Cash for e-Waste

    For the savvy entrepreneur, there are some ways to start a business and profit from used electronics. Setting up shop as an e-waste collector -- and advertising no-cost pickups and gratis data sanitizing on site for consumers -- is only the first step.

    • Recycle cell phones and collect the gold. Germany has discovered that melting down old cell phones and extracting the gold from the chips and other components is a lucrative multi-million dollar business.
    • Refurbish and resell appliances. Australian entrepreneurs with a knack for electronics discovered that they can easily refurbish and upgrade outdated machinery. In some cases they can do the repairs easily and so allow for continued use of the item. Online listing sites, such as eBay or Craigslist, are excellent venues for reselling refurbished appliances. The target audiences for these products are college students, families with younger children and also small businesses and start-up operations.

    There is little doubt that – with just a bit of technical know-how, marketing savvy and entrepreneurial spirit – going green can also generate some green.

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    Photo Credit: "Pile of e-waste" by AvWijk/Wikimedia Commons at (accessed May 30, 2011)