eBay Offers To Pay You To Recycle Your Old Electronics

eBay has launched a new program that lets people trade in their old cell phones and other electronics for instant cash. If the devices aren't worth a dime, it will send you pre-paid postage to responsibly recycle the device.

With the company's new InstantSale website, you'll be offering up your old device to various companies in the business of buying them for valuable metals, components and refurbishing. You plug in details about your device and you get an instant cash offer, deposited to your PayPal account. If the thing is a brick phone from the 1980's and worth nothing, then eBay will send you a shipping label to send it to a responsible recycler.

Wait, if it really is a brick phone, you might want to list it as an auction item. Brick phones these days have become collector's items. I found one "very rare" Nokia P-30 Brick Cell Phone listed for $449. That would get you two-thirds of the way towards the shamefully overpriced Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet.

This "collectable" cell phone can be yours for $449

But let's say the device is just oldish or broken, or you tried selling it on the auction and no one bites and you don't want to store it for a couple of decades until it reaches collectable status. The InstantSale site will pay for your shipping to the buyer (or the recycler). And eBay promises it will wipe the device of all personal data. The program covers a pretty wide variety of electronics including laptops, phones, tablets, PDAs, digital cameras, MP3 players, camcorders and GPS systems.

Responsible recycling is a big, and growing, problem. According to the EPA, 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are generated worldwide every year, and have become 5% of all municipal solid waste. They leave behind lead, cadmium, mercury and other hazardous wastes. Yuck. Not good for the earth, the groundwater or nearby water sources affected by runoff. And unscrupulous recyclers have been found to be scamming people into donating their items and then illegally shipping the ones not fit for refurbishing to third-world countries to poison the earth there. Earlier this month, the UK environmental agency arrested nine people on such a scheme.

Sure, there are plenty of retailers that will accept your old electronics for recycling, Target, for instance, or Dell. But eBay's approach is nice in that there's a chance you can still re-coop a few bucks on a device that probably cost you hundreds.