Jason Lin, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, learned about the e-waste crisis in his world geography class. Most teenagers might commit to recycling their electronics after realizing the effect they have on the planet, but Lin went ahead and started an e-waste recycling business to keep as many old gadgets out of landfills as possible.
Lin and his friends run the website iReTron.com where people can sell their old phones, laptops, game systems and many other gadgets and accessories. Lin and his crew refurbish them and then resell them online on eBay or other sites, extending the life of the electronics. If a gadget can't be repaired, it's dropped off at a certified recycling center and if it doesn't sell, it's donated to a charity.
The EPA estimates that the U.S. produced 2.4 million tons of e-waste in 2010, with cell phones making up a huge chunk of that number. The EPA reported that 152 million cell phones were either trashed or recycled in 2010, meaning at least that many were bought to replace the old ones and where will those end up? Although there are lots of credible e-cyclers out there, many recyclers merely ship the waste overseas where it poses horrible environmental and health risks.
iReTron joins NextWorth, Gazelle and other sites that let consumers log on, get a quote for their device and then ship it to be refurbished and resold. Consumers make money back on their gadget, iReTron makes a profit and electronics skip the landfill. iReTron has already completed about 700 transactions and it's just getting started.
Lin recently won the "Next Teen Tycoon" contest held by San Francisco-based marketing firm VerticalResponse where he received $4,000 towards his business and tickets to the TEDxTeen Conference where he got to spread the word about iReTron. Lin hopes to turn iReTron into a multimillion dollar business, which would be great for him and even better for the planet.