Eliminating Waste Through Reselling

September 20, 2014

Although many Americans make sure to recycle their plastic bottles and aluminum cans, they’re less careful to do so with their more functional possessions. Ninety percent of the nation’s mobile devices get thrown in the trash rather than the recycling bin. The gadgets are joined there by 40 percent of the food produced each year in the U.S., along with the 12 million tons of textiles that get tossed annually.

Over the last few years, a number of new companies have launched in order to reduce this staggering amount of waste while simultaneously earning a profit. For instance, the San Francisco startup Twice buys old wearable clothes and lists them on their website to be purchased at a fraction of the original price. Last year, the company resold more than 400 tons of old clothes. Other startups, such as Silicon Valley’s Yerdle, are more unorthodox. People can visit the company’s website and trade items that they would have otherwise thrown out. From DVDs to spice racks to golf clubs, anything can be exchanged on Yerdle as long as you can find someone willing to take it. In fact, every item a user gives away successfully earns them a credit that can be spent on another person’s stuff.

For many consumers, these startups are simpler alternatives to older sites like eBay. After all, auctioning something on the site requires setting a fair price, describing the item in detail, connecting your bank account, and waiting weeks for payment. Meanwhile, the new electronics resale site FOBO holds auctions that last just 97 minutes and even suggests starting prices. When entrepreneur Josh Opperman needed to return an engagement ring after his relationship went south, he quickly learned that most jewelers don’t give refunds and pawnshops would only give him 35 percent of the ring’s value. That’s when he got the idea for I Do Now I Don’t, an online marketplace for people to sell their engagement rings. Since launching in 2007, the site now brings in nearly $3 million in revenue annually.

 

Questions:

  1. What’s the value of recycling products?
  1. Will the government tax sites such as Yerdle that trades rather than sells items?

 

Source: Katy Steinmetz, “Recycle, Reuse, Reprofit,” Time, July 24, 2014; Jenna Schnuer, “Happily Ever After,” Entrepreneur, January 2014. Photo by Tom Magliery.

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