Preparing for a move back to the east coast, Gazelle.com’s cofounder Israel Ganot took his collection of used electronics to Staples for recycling. He was surprised to discover that the recycling program asked him to pay approximately $15 for the privilege, even though he knew from his days at eBay that the gadgets could be re-commissioned and even resold for value. Gazelle.com was born to not just solve the problem of ewaste, but to create a market for used electronics with revolutionary idea: Recommerce.
Recommerce follows the axiom that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that significant business opportunities abound in creating the infrastructure for more intelligent reuse and recycling networks. Both Ganot and his co-founder Rousseau Aurelien have deep knowledge of the reseller marketplace. They knew that decommissioned phones could be resold on secondary markets, creating a profit opportunity for companies that provided recyclers a cost-free way to handle their used electronics.
How it works: look up your used or decommissioned gadgets on the Gazelle.com site to determine their value, answer a few questions, and the company ships you a box (in most cases free of charge). Once you then send your used electronics to Gazelle.com, you can elect to receive payment or to donate to one of 23 causes.
When Gazelle.com takes in unfixable or otherwise worthless gadgets, the company responsibly disposes of the objects with one of several responsible recyclers. Ganot asserts that Gazelle.com’s end-of-life recycling partners are “best of breed” and rated by the Basel Action Network, a third party NGO that advocates for responsible recycling. Ganot told us during an interview, “Only 5-10% of our electronics wind up with these recyclers. The rest are resold and put back into use.”
The real potential for Gazelle.com lies in the hidden drawers and closets of American homes. According to the SVTC, over 70% of used electronics are stored away in peoples’ homes, since electronics recycling is often complicated, costly, and confusing. Electronics that have hazardous substances like BFRs, PVC, and pthalates have been found to cause damage to human and environmental health when not responsibly recycled. This may be a leap of faith, but the hope lies in the secondary market influencing the designers and marketers of these devices. By extending the life of these machines electronics manufacturers may finally have a financial incentive to design for longevity as an alternative to design for obsolescence.
To date Gazelle.com has applied social media and PR strategies to promote the service. Because the story of the company is compelling to environmental advocates, Gazelle.com has received positive word of mouth and endorsements. If you are interested in Gazelle.com as a solution to your own personal gadget graveyard, you can learn more at Gazelle.com, or follow the company on their Twitter feed @gazelle_com.
Photo attached: screen shot of Gazelle.com (permission to reuse granted by interview subject, CEO Israel Ganot).