Xmas Cleanup: Where to Recycle Your Old Gadgets

Christmas morning delivered two iPads to my family, which reminded of one very important thing (beyond the fact that we’re spoiled): It’s that time of year again, where you get rid of your old, busted or just plain out-of-date gadgets, cell phones and computers, and make way for your brand-spankin’ new ones.

There’s been a growth in entrepreneurs and startups trying to build a business off of so-called e-cycling in 2010, but consumers still don’t seem all that more interested in making the effort. Maybe it’s just about knowing the options. So, here they are: where (and how) to recycle and resell your old gadgets.

1. Gazelle. Founded in 2006, web-based gadget reseller and recycler Gazelle specializes in helping resell or recycle your gadgets. The user enters the gadget make/model into the web site and Gazelle spits back a quote for how much it’s willing to give you in exchange for your product. For example, a broken early model iPhone goes for $10, while a newish iPhone that works perfectly can go for around $400.

You have to ship your own gadget to Gazelle, but the company provides printable labels to help with shipping fees and then the company sends you a check or PayPal reimbursement. Gazelle sells off most gadgets it can make money on over eBay (s EBAY) or Amazon (s AMZN), while certain items it receives in bulk it can sell off to wholesalers. Anything that can’t be resold, Gazelle recycles it.

The barrier to this business model is the time it takes to bring the gadget to the post office. But if you remember that you should be recycling all your old gadgets anyways, it helps ease that time commitment. The company is backed by venture firms Venrock, Rockport Capital, and Physic Ventures and was formerly called Second Rotation. Gazelle says they’ve processed over 100,000 gadgets.

2. Fixing Gadgets via Fixya. Before you resell/recycle it, perhaps you can fix it. Fixya is an online community that can help you troubleshoot software and hardware problems. Users can post a question for free, but can also pay rewards or small fees to boost the chances of getting a quality response from the community. This seems hit or miss to me. I posted a free query earlier today and still haven’t heard back.

3. BuyMyTronics. With an almost identical business model to Gazelle, BuyMyTronics looks to buy your gadgets and resell them. With its VC funds, Gazelle should try to acquire ByMyTronics.

4. ecoATM. Startup ecoATM does pretty much what its name implies: It places ATM-style kiosks in stores that can collect old cell phones and gadgets and offer users incentives, coupons and in-store credit in exchange. The company won our Green:Net startup competition and more recently received an investment from Coinstar, which hopes to make money off it in the same way it’s making bank off of its coin-counter machines, or the Redbox DVD kiosks. The benefit of this model is that it’s so easy to grab your broken phone and drop it in a kiosk at your local grocery while you’re shopping. Now they just need more locations.

5. Resell It Yourself. After looking over these newcomers above, it’s clear that there’s a market for reselling older gadgets. It just takes a little time and knowhow. If you want to put in the time, place your item on eBay, Amazon or Craigslist yourself and give it a spin. Mind the learning curve.

6. Look Locally. The Electronic Industries Alliance E-Cycling site compiles a list of nationwide e-cyclers by zip code. There’s a lot of non profits and local organizations that can direct you to a spot in your community where you can recycle larger objects like computers and home electronics.

7. ReCellular. There’s a decent business around old cell phones in particular. ABI Research estimates that by 2012 the recycling of cell phones will generate some $3 billion in revenue. ReCellular is one of the oldest and most established in the U.S. and acts as both a place for selling and buying of older and refurbished cell phones.

8. Company Options. One of the reasons there’s been a lack of electronics recycling in the U.S. is because the manufacturers themselves haven’t been aggressively pushing recycling options like they have in countries in Europe. Perhaps this will change one day. A couple of years ago, the EPA created a program that brought together 11 large companies: Best Buy (s bby), Office Depot (s odp) and Staples (s spls); service carriers AT&T (s t), T-Mobile and Sprint (s s); and manufacturers Motorola (s mot), Nokia (s nok), Samsung, Sony Ericsson (s sne) (s eric) and LG, all of whom are supposed to work together to make recycling easier for consumers.

For more research, check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):