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Talk is cheap, but phones still sell
Talk is cheap, but phones still sell
Mike Newman, vice president of ReCellular
Dexter, Mich.
Launched: 1991
Sales: $50 million in 2007, $55 million in 2008

"Waste not, want not" is the principle that fuels profits for ReCellular, which finds new homes for old phones by working with most of the nation's cell phone carriers, retailers and manufacturers to recycle used cell phones.

Newer model phones that can be reused are cleared of personal information, cleaned, tested, and shipped to resellers. The rest are ground up so that the metals can be captured and reused.

"Fewer new phones are being sold in this economy," says Mike Newman, vice president of ReCellular. "More people are seeking out low-cost alternatives, which we supply. We're processing a lot more product, and have become more efficient at it. The demand has skyrocketed."

A year ago, ReCellular was selling 5,000 refurbished phones a month, Newman says. Now, the company is supplying five to six times as many phones to companies such as Page Plus (PagePlusCellular.com), which sells the refurbished models online and in convenience stores, where they come preloaded with air time.

ReCellular also sells "call tested" used phones, vetting the products for basic functionality and then selling them to other companies that make the phones retail-ready. Total sales figures for both refurbished and call-tested phones are now at more than 200,000 units a month.

"We have 20,000 phones coming in every day now," Newman says. "We had significant growth in 2008, and we're confident of having double-digit growth this year. Our January numbers were up over January 2008, and we saw a growth of more than 33% over 2007 in the quantity of phones recycled to us."

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LAST UPDATE: Mar 06 2009 | 4:11 PM ET
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