News Column

Old Tablets Are as Good as New in Recycling Market

Dec. 13, 2012

Mark Davis, The Kansas City Star

Shopping for a new iPad this holiday season? Then you should know that lots of people want your old tablet, and many will pay for it.

Independence resident Brian Fey has been embracing each new generation of the iPad that Apple Inc. introduces.

Each new purchase meant a family member inherited his earlier version, although he has a Hewlett-Packard TouchPad that no one ever touches. His mother's early Christmas present was the new iPad 4.

"I'll probably end up with a (iPad) Mini. I totally don't need one," Fey said.

Oh, and his wife has sold one family iPad to a co-worker.

"There's a huge market for that," said Shelly Kramer, founder of V3 Integrated Marketing in Kansas and social media blogger. "It's really a lucrative business."

Tablets are the staggeringly popular touch-screen computers made up of a single panel. In addition to the iPad, and its smaller relative the iPad Mini, shoppers are grabbing Samsung's Galaxy, Google's Nexus, Amazon's Kindle Fire, Microsoft's Surface and others.

The appeal stems partly from their sleek, light bodies, which makes tablets easier to tote than laptop computers that have a screen and keyboard on separate panels. Touch screens on tablets also eliminate the need to use a mouse to move around a cursor.

Global tablet sales this year will top 122 million units, according to a forecast last week by International Data Corp. That group expects sales to double by 2016.

With so many new tablets hitting the market, consumers increasingly are wondering what to do with their old tablets and the laptop or other computers they're using less.

Before getting rid of any computer equipment, it's important to wipe it clean of all personal information using any of the widely available programs specifically designed to do so. Simply deleting files or even reformatting a computer can still leave recoverable information on it.

Many electronics makers and sellers have standing offers to repurchase popular consumer devices like tablets and cellphones.

Apple has a buyback program for its own products that offers Apple gift cards instead of cash.

For example, a used iPad 2 with 16 gigabytes of memory and WiFi access will bring between $125 and $175 in Apple gift cards through the company's online offer. Originally, the device cost $499 at its March 2011 release.

Overland Park-based Sprint Nextel Corp. offers instant account credits in its buyback program that accepts more than 1,000 devices, for example, showing a $142 credit for that used iPad2. The instant credit allows customers to trade in as they trade up.

Few tablets are coming in so far, said David Owens, Sprint's vice president of product. Many tablets just stay in the family.

"It's been a hand-down market to date," Owens said.

Cold hard cash is out there, too, in an active secondary market for electronics.

The Johnson County Environmental Department includes a link to multiple online buyers at its own electronic waste recycling web page. The link takes you to uSell.com, formerly known as EcoSquid.

There, a group of 18 buyers offer cash bids for devices like tablets, cellphones, camcorders, game consoles and the like.

These and other online buyers are unlikely to match prices that the same devices fetch on eBay, which is where some of the buyers resell what they've bought.

Gazelle.com, for example, offered last week to buy a used 16-gig iPad with WiFi and in good condition for $100. The same day, Gazelle was on eBay asking $237.89 for a similarly described device for anyone ready to "Buy It Now," and five shoppers had taken up the offer.

The strong secondary market for tablets means they're not showing up yet at the Surplus Exchange in Kansas City either. The nonprofit takes in electronics and office furniture to provide to other nonprofits, or to sell or recycle.

Executive director Bob Akers said one tablet did come in with a battery problem. The tech crew, however, fixed that problem and now Surplus Exchange crews use the iPad at recycling drop off events.

Still, Akers said he is seeing the impact tablets are having on the market.

"We're seeing a lot of laptops," Akers said. "That has to do with tablets becoming more sophisticated, having larger memory, more computing power."

For older devices at the end of their useful life, the answer is recycling.

Akers suggests consumers check into where the recycler sends what it takes in, or alternatively to look for a recycler certified by the eStewards program that Akers is part of or by R2 Solutions.

Going to a responsible recycler also avoids the security concerns. The recycler should know how to wipe hard drives truly clean of your information.



Source: (c)2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by MCT Information Services