Summary:

There’s money in those old phones, and a company is ramping up to bring that opportunity to cell phone carriers.

Wet phone

A company that makes cell phone recycling and trade-in programs for carriers — eRecycling Group — has raised a $105 million Series C round from investors, led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and including new investor Silver Lake Kraftwerk. There are a lot of companies looking to build businesses around getting consumers to trade in their older cell phones and electronics (Gazelle, ecoATM), but eRecycling Group is uniquely focused on developing services that carriers can use and profit from.

Silver Lake Kraftwerk — the private equity arm’s energy-focused fund — joined the round as a new investor. Kraftwerk Partner Raj Atluru, formerly of DFJ, has long said that he sees a major opportunity in waste and resource management. Kleiner Perkins has also long supported the recycling space and also has invested in Recyclebank, which helps brands connect with consumers around recycling.

In just the U.S., recycling company ReCellular estimates that there will be over 130 million cell phones replaced this year, which means 65,000 tons of solid waste. The problem in the U.S. is that many states and cities have various laws, and there’s a hodgepodge of programs and non-profit services that make it confusing for both consumers and carriers to know who to turn to. According to EPA stats from 2009, just 8 percent of cell phones are recycled in the U.S. In Europe, strong laws have streamlined the cell phone recycling process.

So the next time you inevitably upgrade to the next iPhone, think about your options for what to do with it. These VCs are certainly hoping you will.

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